Texas Department of Public Safety assesses campus security

Mikaela Cannizzo

The Texas Department of Public Safety is conducting a comprehensive review of security measures on the UT campus at the request of President Gregory Fenves.

The evaluation has already started and is expected to be finished by the end of August, Fenves wrote in an email to the University. Fenves said his decision to implement an external review was prompted by the Waller Creek homicide.

Tom Vinger, press secretary for DPS, said the assessment will examine elements such as surveillance video coverage, outdoor lighting, building security and the roles of law enforcement officers and noncommissioned staff. While DPS will be conducting the review as an outside entity, various departments including the UT Police Department will provide information needed to complete the survey.

“DPS will continue to work closely with the UT leadership and the UT police department throughout this process to ensure we provide the assistance requested and to keep them informed of the progress,” Vinger said in an email.

In addition to the main campus, DPS is reviewing security at the J.J. Pickle Research Center, graduate student housing, parking garages and other University-owned properties, according to Fenves’ email.

After the review is complete, the findings will be presented to the University. Fenves said he plans to implement the recommendations received from DPS.

UTPD Chief David Carter said public safety experts covering different components of safety will physically inspect areas of interest and review policies and procedures. DPS will alert specific departments of any issue that needs immediate attention, rather than wait until the end of the review to recommend a change.

Carter said the review intends to make campus safer for students by implementing changes based on a thorough assessment of features including technology, security systems and environmental design. Increased police patrols will continue as the review is in its beginning stages.

“It is always important to have an outside perspective brought in because sometimes you may think you’re going in the right direction, but things evolve and change over time,” Carter said. “This is an opportunity for us to look and see if there are evidence-based practices that we should adopt that we’re not already using.”

Students can also get involved by adding comments about campus safety and security on UT’s BeSafe website, besafe.utexas.edu. Carter said he encourages students to express their concerns and identify areas they feel are unsafe through commenting on the site. According to Fenves’s email, the feedback received will be shared with DPS as part of the comprehensive assessment.

Public relations senior Elizabeth Pickard said she generally feels safe on campus, but thinks the lighting near the Fine Arts Library could be improved. While she said the assessment will be beneficial for students, she thinks the University should have been conducting security reviews more frequently prior to the homicide.

“It does seem a little reactionary, something to appease people’s concerns, but it’s definitely necessary and I’m glad that they’re doing it,” Pickard said. “I just wish that it didn’t take having someone murdered on campus to have it done.”