EXCLUSIVE: APD designating officers to strictly patrol West Campus

- Austin Police will be designating officers to strictly patrol West Campus ahead of the start of the school year. It's an effort to keep UT students safe after multiple incidents of graffiti and aggressive panhandling.

From officers on bikes, to officers on foot, even some plainclothes officers you'll start to see more of a police presence a week or two before school.    

There's been a lot of changes on campus since the death of Haruka Weiser in 2016 and the stabbing death of Harrison Brown this past May. Now there will be more attention to West Campus from the Austin Police Department.

"We're so mobile that we can be in an area one second and then get pulled away and go 5, 6, 8 miles away, across the city to respond to calls. My intention is to dedicate officers to that area specifically, and barring a huge emergency in the city, they're not going to leave that area throughout their shift," said Commander Andy Michael, Austin Police Department.

This comes as a win for SafeHorns Vice President Joell McNew. The non-profit has been advocating for increased safety and security, mainly on the Drag, ever since Weiser's death.

"I'm so grateful to APD and Commander Michael for really working with us and acknowledging the need in West Campus - to know the situation is real and when they're not there, the crime does escalate. So it will really make a huge impact," said Joell McNews, SafeHorns Vice President.

McNew wants to make sure efforts are sustainable long-term. On Monday she pleaded for the Public Safety Commission to help take action.

"We had two females that were sexually assaulted, one being on the sidewalk. I mean, that just blows my mind," said McNew.

The Austin Police Department says their two main concerns are graffiti and aggressive panhandling. They are cohesively working with UTPD to make sure everyone is safe.

"We've invited UTPD to come off of campus and help us on the Drag. We're always more than willing to come onto campus anytime they need extra resources as well," said Cmdr. Michael.

Commander Andy Michael says you'll notice fewer transients on the Drag compared to years past. Their efforts to clean up the area have worked, which is why they plan to continue them. They are even doing more to punish repeat offenders.

"That allows the county attorney or district attorney to try to work with the magistrates to either increase bonds, or if it's something they might be sentenced for, hold them longer than a 5, 10 day sentence. Maybe a 6 or 8 month sentence for repeat offenders," said Cmdr. Michael.

This is comforting for senior Sunjna Kohli,  who lives in West Campus. 

"It tends to be a little sketchy at night. I think increasing patrol could be helpful. It could make students, especially girls, feel a lot safer," said Sunjna Kohli, UT student.

SafeHorns says looking toward the future, they hope the city can team up with the university to form some type of organization that works with businesses and students who are in the west campus area. They would like for it to be similar to the Downtown Austin Alliance.

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