The UT Police Department holds some of the quickest call response times in Austin, UTPD executive officer Chris Bonnet said.
On average, UTPD responded to calls in approximately one to six minutes last semester, according to UTPD records. The Austin Police Department responded to 911 calls in eight minutes and 53 seconds in 2019, according to the City of Austin’s data website.
“Our call times have remained consistently pretty low,” Bonnet said. “That’s mostly because we’ve been (using) bicycles and alternative means of transportation.”
Officer Kenneth Parada, who is a part of UTPD’s Bike Unit, said his unit of 12 officers helps maintain a rapid call response time during their daily patrols. Parada said police deploy units into the surrounding areas of campus, such as West Campus or North Campus.
“We’re constantly riding around and patrolling those areas to not only mitigate a threat that could come up but also … to turn those two, three minute response times into second response times by being in the area before it happens,” Parada said.
Every UTPD officer receives a weeklong training in bicycle patrolling, and each officer has a bicycle assigned to them if needed, Parada said. Although UTPD does not have a target response time, Bonnet said they are looking to improve.
Bonnet said the time of day, transportation hindrances and information given by the person who called 911 affect call response times.
“If they say, ‘We saw this suspicious person hanging around the (Perry-Castañeda Library) or (Jester West Residence Hall),’ we might get there in a minute or two,” Bonnet said. “But if it’s a big area our officers have to walk around … (the suspect) may have gotten on a bus, and then it takes us a minute to get behind the bus, pull the bus over and go in and find a person on the bus.”
Suspicious person calls were the most frequent calls UTPD got and took an average of five minutes and 50 seconds to complete last semester, according to UTPD records. These situations yield the slowest response times since the clock will run until officers have arrived at a specific location that was reported or, in the case of a more general area, have located the suspected person.
At least two dispatchers work on any given day, Bonnet said. When they receive calls, specifics such as the type of shoes a person is wearing can help UTPD identify suspects, Bonnet said.
“It can be especially hard Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 minutes before the hour during class change where there’s 30,000, 40,000, maybe 50,000 (people) walking,” Bonnet said. “That can be difficult, especially for a car to get through. That’s where the bikes and our foot patrol help during those periods of high congestion.”
James Richardson, a second year law student, said UTPD has done an excellent job of keeping the University safe.
“(Students) appreciate how much they have ramped things up in terms of patrolling in recent years to help keep us safer,” Richardson said. “We should always strive to do as best as we could do, so of course it would be great if we could get that time down.”