UT officers encourage safety on Halloween

Aziza Musa

Officers from the UT and Austin police departments are encouraging students to engage in safe practices, including awareness of alcohol consumption and alternatives to drunken driving during this year’s Halloween weekend.

Authorities said they are expecting large crowds downtown from Thursday to Sunday, with Saturday being the most highly populated because of the football game. Officers advised students to use designated drivers, Capital Metro’s E-Bus and soberRide, a nonprofit organization that provides free cab rides on high-consumption nights.

E-Bus services will be extended to Sunday at 3 a.m., and students are required to swipe their UT identification cards as usual. Cap Metro does not have plans to supplement the 10 buses that regularly constitute the E-Bus routes, but an operator will monitor levels of ridership — at 18,000 during Halloween weekend last year — to determine whether more buses are needed.

Aside from alcohol-related violations, UTPD Officer William Pieper said he expects increases in criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and medical calls for the weekend.

“Whenever you have a lot of people engaged in an atmosphere that’s fun and festive, there is more potential for fights to break out,” he said. “Some people might get out of hand and might break things, causing damage.”

UTPD and APD are also increasing the number of officers patrolling the downtown area in preparation for the weekend’s revelries. APD would not release the number of officers who will be on duty in the area, and Pieper said the department will have more than the regular amount of five officers working this weekend. Additional officers are likely to patrol dorms and UT’s properties on Sixth Street, he said.

Officers will inspect the area for inappropriate accessories, including firearms and swords. All costume accessories should appear fake or individuals will be asked to put it away or leave the area, said APD Sgt. Keith Bazzle.

APD will carry out its “No Refusal” policy Friday and Saturday nights. The department first implemented the “No Refusal” policy in October 2008 to reduce the number of driving-while-intoxicated charges on high alcohol consumption nights, such as Halloween and Labor Day weekends. The policy allows officers to obtain blood search warrants signed by an on-call judge to test for intoxication if drivers refuse to provide breath or blood samples.

APD’s Highway Enforcement Command Unit arrested nearly 180 people since the program began. Of the total, 70 percent of the suspects had a blood alcohol content that was two times over the legal limit of 0.08. APD Cmdr. Jason Dusterhoft said the department will try to increase efforts to reduce numbers of drunken drivers during “No Refusal.”

“I don’t want to have to go out and get a search warrant for blood,” Dusterhoft said. “I don’t want to have to go pull someone over for DWI. But if you choose not to take that cab or that designated driver, you’re going to be going home with us.”