Students living in West Campus often see two different police departments patrolling the area — the Austin Police Department and the University of Texas Police Department. But the roles of the these two departments are slightly different.
APD handles all police-related calls within the city limits of Austin, including those in West Campus. APD Lt. Robert Smith said the department has around 12 officers patrol the West Campus area who respond primarily to criminal trespassing and vehicle thefts.
“UTPD is only contacted if the event happens on UT property,” Smith said. “They aren’t called if it occurs off UT property. The only exception is that if it is a violent crime. In the interest of public safety, we will notify UTPD.”
UTPD Chief David Carter said the APD communications center will contact UTPD if they want assistance with investigating a violent crime and then officers will respond. UTPD officers on patrol will arrest people they see committing crimes if APD is not present.
“If somebody reports that their bicycle was stolen or something like that happened, we don’t respond to those calls because APD has the primary responsibility to investigate anything that has occurred off campus,” Carter said.
Carter said despite being funded primarily to police the main UT campus, UTPD increased the number of officers patrolling West Campus in 2013 to support the significant number of UT students who live in the area.
“I recognized that we had issues in West Campus at that time, involving negative interactions between some of our students and homeless individuals,” Carter said. “So now you will frequently see UTPD officers on bicycles or on foot or even driving through West Campus.”
Anthropology junior Sarah Dolphin, who lives in West Campus, said she has had positive interactions with APD when they have responded to her calls, but she wishes UTPD could dedicate more officers to the area.
“Since West Campus is literally across the street from the University, I feel that UTPD’s presence should be stronger,” Dolphin said. “Their response times would likely be much quicker than (those of) APD, and I know that it would make me and my friends feel safer.”
Carter said if students report a crime to UTPD that did not happen on campus, UTPD will collect any information about the crime and then connect students to Student Emergency Services and APD.
“If it’s a member of our community, we’re going to support them in whatever way we possibly can,” Carter said. “Sometimes a student may come and report they were sexually assaulted off campus. We recognize that it’s important to provide support for that student. We don’t simply just rush them off and say, ‘Well you gotta go see (APD).’”
Smith said along with investigating crimes reported by students, APD officers are always working to foster stronger partnerships both with students living in West Campus and with UTPD.
“Our district representatives have daily contact with students, businesses and citizens in the West Campus area,” Smith said. “Our patrol officers and supervisors also will call (UTPD) with any UT specific crime info on a daily basis and they keep us informed as well.”