The Austin Police Department works to help off-campus students with nonemergency issues and safety concerns through its district representatives and events like Coffee with a Cop.
Students who live in off-campus homes can contact Austin Police Department officers for nonemergency issues or if they have safety concerns.
APD splits Austin into 10 districts, each led by a commander, with four district representatives working for the residents in different areas. West Campus is located in the Baker district, North Campus is in both Baker and Ida, and Riverside is located in the Henry district.
South central district representative Armando Perez, who patrols Riverside, and central west district representative Will Harvey, who patrols parts of West Campus, said their everyday duties include items such as responding to noise complaints and helping residents make their homes safer.
“(Some of my duties include) doing a patrol for the area, seeing if we can get our homeless outreach team to provide care for some homeless people that may be out there in the neighborhood, or doing a criminal trespass notice for these property owners who constantly have a problem with (people doing) some type of violation like urinating (or) defecating,” Perez said.
The easiest way for students to contact their district representative is to dial 311, give their location and ask for their APD district representative, Harvey said.
Perez said his district hosts meetings such as Coffee with a Cop, where nearby residents can speak directly with their district representatives every three months, but Perez said he would like to see more students in Riverside come talk with them. The next Coffee with a Cop will be downtown at Capital One Café on Sixth Street.
Sylvia Vu, an electrical and computer engineering sophomore, lives in West Campus. She said she had never heard of the district representative program before, but would be interested in attending events such as Coffee with a Cop.
“I just thought the cops come around here to keep the peace,” Vu said. “I think that’s a really good idea, honestly, because I don’t want them to be portrayed in a bad light. They’re here to help us.”
Since district representatives do not respond to emergencies, Harvey said it gives them time to figure out long-term solutions to neighborhood problems instead of “putting a band-aid on it.” He said the representatives in West Campus work closely with nonprofit safety advocacy organization SafeHorns to engage with more students.
“(We) actually get quite a few students that want to come by and visit with us and just kind of see how we do things,” Harvey said. “Maybe they have different law enforcement-related questions. It’s just anything under the sun.”
SafeHorns president Joell McNew said SafeHorns partners with district representatives in West Campus to help students take a more active role in advocating for public safety.
“Students need to understand that (they) are part of this community and so (they) need to get involved,” McNew said. “Never hesitate to reach out to (your district representatives), even if it’s just to ask a question.”