Campus Watch strives to inform the UT community

Anthony Green

The daily emails recounting incidents involving strong odors of alcohol and small baggies containing a “green leafy substance” are the product of the UTPD’s continued crime prevention efforts.

Campus Watch, a service established in 1999 by UTPD, provides summaries of selected information about recent crimes reported.

UTPD Assistant Chief Terry McMahan said the idea for Campus Watch was suggested under the Clery Act, requiring universities to disclose criminal activity happening on campus.

“The intent was to inform the campus community about UTPD activity on campus each day,” McMahan said. “It makes the campus more aware.”

The author of the Campus Watch updates, Officer Jimmy Moore, said he feels the daily posts are more effective as a means of spreading information than the annual reports, which are federally mandated.

“Most universities are required and bound by the Clery Act to report all their violent and significant crimes, but that’s on an annual basis,” Moore said. “It’s really good information, but it’s from the previous year and doesn’t give you much [information] in real time.”

Moore said if the Crime Prevention Unit notices trends of certain crimes occurring in certain locations, UTPD will also increase the number of officers present within the area. The unit also conducts 250 to 300 presentations on campus safety every semester.

“Campus Watch is just one of the many tools we use to reach the public,” Moore said.

Moore said humor was added to the Campus Watch rhetoric shortly after its creation to increase readership.

More than 15,900 people are subscribed to Campus Watch emails, and Moore said the large user base means balancing humor and sensitivity can be a nerve-racking experience.

“You don’t want to offend someone,” Moore said. “You never know who’s out there reading it, so you don’t know what will and won’t offend … knowing your audience is really tough because we have such a broad range. 

Still, Moore said, humor is an important tool for keeping the reports compelling.

“You still try to keep it just witty, funny, where you can keep people involved and keep people wanting to read it,” Moore said. “That way, you can also get the second part of it, which is keeping people informed about what’s going on and keeping them safe.”

Since its inception, nine different officers have been in charge of writing Campus Watch. Moore took over for Officer Darrell Halstead in July of this year.  

Layne Brewster, who works alongside Moore in the Crime Prevention Unit, said Moore has always been an effortlessly funny person.

“Jimmy seriously has a sense of humor,” said Brewster, who is also Moore’s roommate. “He’s a lot quicker with the wit … I’d have to sit at it for a while and think, ‘How can I use this?’” 

Moore, who is being promoted from patrol to sergeant in February, has deep ties with the department.

“I’ve been an officer for about 12 years now,” Moore said. “My father was a recruiting sergeant here and retired after 35 years. I’ve been around the department since I was in diapers.” 

Brewster said she will miss Moore’s approach to Campus Watch. 

“Jimmy is becoming sergeant in February so I’ll have a new person here,” Brewster said. “I told my captains they have to be funny.”

Criminal trespassing, criminal mischief and the most popular crime on campus, theft, have all been reduced on campus since 2000, according to UTPD’s Annual Security Report. 

According to the crime logs, controlled substance abuse and liquor law violations have more than doubled since 2000, while public intoxication has quadrupled. 

The department was unable to speculate on the role Campus Watch plays in crime reduction.

“We like to think what were doing is making a difference, and we’re hoping that it is, but there’s no true way to test and measure that to say it’s because of [Campus Watch],” Moore said. “We are fully aware that the more information we are able to get out to the public and the more knowledgeable they are about crimes, opportunity and how to prevent them the better prepared they are and the less likely they are to leave something alone to have it stolen.”

Moore said the best thing the unit can do to combat this spike is keep the public informed on substance abuse trends and ways to avoid them.

“It all goes back to knowledge,” Moore said. “What are the trends we’re seeing? What are the new substances and drugs people are using and the best way to combat it and what to look for to avoid it? … The knowledge you have can help you to avoid that situation and know exactly what the effects something are and maybe you won’t try it.”