The results are in — 78% of UT’s population feel “safe and secure” on campus, according to results released last week from a routine safety survey conducted in March by the UT Police Department.
Every three years, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies civilian survey assesses UTPD’s job performance, as required by the commission for accreditation. This year, the survey had an approximately 54% increase in participation from the last survey, conducted in 2015.
Respondents identified “threats/attacks” as their biggest campus concern. Vocal performance sophomore. Nicholas Ryland said while he occasionally feels unsafe off campus, especially at night, he generally feels safe on campus.
“It’s only when I go out for parties or whatever in the most vulnerable areas of West Campus that I sometimes feel unsafe, but that’s because I’m out where I could be mugged or something like that,” Ryland said.
Assistant chief Don Verett said UTPD is looking to better engage with the population they serve. The department also hopes to improve police response by initiating precision policing, where instead of training every officer for every kind of call, officers specialize in different areas of the department, Verett said.
“We take officers that have particular skill sets and try to match them with that,” Verett said.
Currently, UTPD has officers assigned as district representatives in eight different patrol districts. Verett said they plan to include those district representatives within a new division called “community engagement.”
“(District representatives include) the street patrol officers that you see drive around and cars that respond to the in-progress calls,” Verett said. “We really try to let people put a face with a name … and really try to personalize that police response.”
Hayle Ward, a rhetoric and writing sophomore, said she has not had personal experiences with UTPD, but she may not feel comfortable reporting to them if she thought the officer might have a subconscious bias regarding the crime.
“If it was something … that wouldn’t have any type of underlying bias with a police officer, I would feel very comfortable,” Ward said. “But if it was something that could, like if I was sexually assaulted, I feel like I’d have trouble because women have issues with that as it is … reporting it to authorities and then having actual action done.”
Ward said increased engagement with students would have a positive impact because it would likely increase trust between students and authorities.
“I feel like it could be productive if they held a seminar for students and let students freely ask them questions and get to know the officers that are working on their campus because then it would create trust between the two groups,” Ward said. “If I knew the officers that work in this community, I would feel … more comfortable being around them.”
Verett said other changes UTPD is working toward include expanding the bicycle patrol and improving relations with different communities through liaisons, such as those for military veterans and LGBTQ people.
“It was something we already had in place, but it was brought out by the survey that may have been one of the blocks to people reporting to the police department,” Verett said. “Making sure we have people from that community that have that same shared experience (is important). We want everybody in our community to feel comfortable reporting things to the UT Police Department.