AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ask University of Texas at Austin student Isaiah Carter what his priorities are for the school year and “safety” is the first word you’ll hear.
“There’s no doubt safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” he said.
Carter became the student government Chief of Staff just a few weeks after tragedy struck the campus in April 2016, when 18-year-old student Haruka Weiser was found murdered along Waller Creek. He started hearing more and more from his peers about the concerns of feeling safe.
“But the problems aren’t necessarily focused on campus, students are feeling unsafe on their walk home,” said Carter, who lives on West Campus and admits his trek to and from the 40 acres doesn’t feel safe.
“There’s a lot of alleyways that are dark, there’s a lot of blind spots. There are times where I’m walking down the street and I can’t see around the corner because there’s vegetation.”
Now, Carter is in the process of creating a safety map that will outline the safest routes for students to take. With the help of fellow students, UTPD and even the City of Austin Code Department, Carter is surveying each street on West Campus to find what routes students should take.
“What we’ll do is actually highlight in green the safe parts and the safe routes. So if a student is at the library and needs to go to 27th Street, he’s going to look at this map and see there are three different ways I can take. According to this map, this way is the safest,” Carter explained.
James Paxton is a Code Investigator with the city, he is helping Carter identify any violations that may impact student safety.
“Any high grass and weeds affecting visibility, vacant and unsecured buildings, things that the Austin Code Department can assist in remedying,” Paxton said. The university says ever since Weiser’s death, they have worked on clearing up shrubs and high brush that could cause visibility issues around campus.
As the map is being developed for both print form and app form, Carter is making sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. He’s exploring the idea of making it only accessible to those with a UT email address. The police are also on board.
“Talking with the assistant chief, he actually assured me that if we can bring him a map that is accurate, he is going to have police officers patrolling those safe routes,” Carter said.
Carter takes pride in the fact that the map is students helping students and believes it could just be the key to the safety map’s success.
“We came together and said this is an issue and we want to solve it because we live it every single day. This is our home. West Campus is our home.”
The metric for the map should be finished by the end of next month. Students will then be surveyed through the end of winter break. The formal map is expected to be released to students in the spring. After the West Campus pilot launch, Carter said his next goal is to make it available to students who walk near Riverside, north campus and eventually on campus.