New blue light call box in West Campus among initiatives to improve safety

Leila Saidane

SafeHorns installed a new blue light call box, which calls 911 at the push of a button, on the 23rd Street Artists’ Market alleyway on Friday in an attempt to help students feel safer in West Campus.

SafeHorns, a nonprofit organization that works on improving the safety of the UT community and visitors, had the box installed by CASE Emergency Systems with permission of the University Co-op. The call box is the first of several initiatives SafeHorns is hoping to implement to make West Campus safer, SafeHorns president Joell McNew said.

The nonprofit led a walk through West Campus on Friday to promote awareness of the lack of lighting in West Campus, McNew said. SafeHorns is also petitioning the Austin City Council to complete Resolution 184, which promises improved lighting, emergency call boxes and HALO camera systems within West Campus.

“(Guadalupe Street) is the most densely populated area,” McNew said. “But as you move back towards Lamar, it gets darker and darker and less foot traffic, and that’s what we want to address.”

Cpl. Ben Mewis started on with the University of Texas Police Department in 2001 before switching to the Austin Police Department in 2011. Despite the recent increase in crime, Mewis said he feels safety has improved over the past 20 years.

“We used to get calls from students that flat-out said they did not feel safe walking through (Renaissance Market),” Mewis said. “Clearly that’s not an issue anymore. We don’t respond to this specific spot anymore for crime, but now we are going to other parts of West Campus. It changes all around, depending on what specifically the crime is.”

Emily Crone, president of Horns for Safety, a student organization that aims to promote student safety, said she lived in West Campus for two years, but does not feel comfortable walking late at night. 

“A sad fact is that West Campus is full of students who come and go every four years,” said Crone, biochemistry and Spanish senior. “Therefore, West Campus is not a priority for the city of Austin to fulfill their needs, and better lighting and consistent lighting in and around West Campus is going to help students feel safe.”