Parents voice concerns at UT safety meeting

The meeting, hosted by UTPD, drew in a crowd in the wake of Haruka Weiser’s death.

Some concerned parents gathered this afternoon at the UT Police Department's safety coalition forum. This meeting comes after the murder of Haruka Weiser earlier this month.

Kate Youman has a daughter who attends UT. She's the same age as Weiser.

“My daughter is a freshman in the fine arts department, and walks that same very path Haruka did on a daily basis,” Youman said.

The murder shocked the campus community so much, both UTPD and APD are stepping up patrols. At a safety coalition meeting Monday night, parents, some frustrated, voiced their concerns about their children’s safety.

“There is a lot of crime, a lot of terrible unbelievable things going on in West Campus that aren't being reported,” Joell McNew, parent, said.

Parents like  McNew say some in the homeless population have become aggressive. She recalls when a woman attacked her son, for not giving her any money.

“She came at him, and she was on him physically and he pushed her and she ran off,” she said.

Chief Art Acevedo says there is a clear distinction between a homeless person and a criminal who lives on the streets.

“Our police officers know the homeless folks they don't bother anybody. They collect cans they collect bottles. They don't panhandle. They know them by name. What we will be focusing on is the criminal transient,” Acevedo said.

Those criminal transients are who parents are worried about. Youman even works with the homeless population.

“Many of the people that we serve in the homeless community are in recovery or yearning to be in recovery from substance use and mental illness,” Youman said.

Acevedo says the department is putting final touches on a homeless outreach program, and they will continue to keep an eye on the drag. It's a collaborative effort with UTPD.

“We don't worry about boundaries, we don't worry about jurisdiction, we worry about the safety of the children you have placed in our hands. Not just as public safety professionals but as parents ourselves,” Acevedo said.

These meetings have been going on since 2006, they happen twice a year, sometimes only once. This meeting was planned long before the Haruka Weiser’s death.

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