Police stepping up West Campus patrols after student sexually assaulted

UT students walking in West Campus at night (KXAN Photo)
UT students walking in West Campus at night (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police say they’re stepping up patrols in the West Campus area after a UT student was sexually assaulted sometime Saturday night.

The university sent out an alert saying multiple suspects were involved, but now police aren’t saying if there was more than one suspect. They’re still working to get more information from the female victim.

Student government staff and UT parents say the issue highlights a bigger problem with safety in the West Campus area.

“The initial concern obviously is fear and not knowing the unknown,” Joell McNew, vice president of the parent group SafeHorns, said. “One thing that we want to make sure is police is present, that it is increased until we find out more.”

Police say they have increased their watch, but parents think there are long-term problems that need to be fixed.

“Lighting in West Campus as well as cameras — there aren’t cameras, the lighting is questionable in some places, it can be very dark and those are things that we really want to have addressed,” McNew says.

Their group is working with the UT student government to help bring more resources to students. In fact, the student government is aware of the issues in West Campus. Last year, after the murder of UT freshman Haruka Weiser, they began working on a safety map to help give students a better idea of what areas both on and off campus are safe to walk in.

“We created a rubric and each street and alleyway is scored based on a number of static factors, so not factors that change,” Isaiah Carter, chief of staff for UT Student Government said. “We’re going through every single street and saying this street it safe.”

The map will show which streets a student can walk on that will be safer in terms of lighting, security cameras and even sidewalk conditions.

“What we did is we had about 50 students surveyors go out and each of them had a region you go through and you look at that region, you say, ‘OK, based on this rubric, the street scores a 70 out of 90,” Carter said.

Student government expects to have the map out soon, it will be available on multiple websites, and based off of student interest, they will look at making the map and app for your phone.

“It just takes one time, it takes one student, that really, really needs the resource but doesn’t have access to it, that could lead to another tragedy,” Carter says.

Student government staff say they’re continuing to urge the university to expand their SureWalk program. Right now, according to student government staff, while the university says they technically do cover West campus, most student experience has been that volunteers will only take them to edges of campus, or the immediate campus area, because volunteers say it’s too far.

University officials say SURE Walk does cover West Campus and a large portion of north campus as well. They say there are boundaries for walking, carts and vehicles, so depending on the requested pick up or drop off it will be determined if the SURE Walk team is sent on foot, in a cart, or by vehicle.

Editors Note: Our original report said SureWalk does not operate in West Campus. This has been edited to show student experiences with SureWalk in West Campus versus University written boundaries of the program. 

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