However, in the last year UT police have worked with the Austin Police Department more than ever, McNew said. The Drag is technically in the city of Austin department’s jurisdiction, but UT police do cross those boundaries, she said. What victims need to realize, however, is that crime on the Drag must be reported to Austin police, she said.
McNew said she is encouraged by the Austin City Council’s decision in May to study how lighting could be improved in West Campus and that she hopes something comes out of that.
SafeHorns also lobbied for, and got, the city’s Homelessness Outreach Street Team to respond to the Drag in addition to downtown Austin. That pilot program created a team of police officers and public health officials who approach homeless people on the street and connect them with social services.
However, the future of that program — known as HOST — seemed uncertain at Monday’s commission meeting. The city’s proposed budget, released last week, didn’t allocate any money for HOST. However, Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said that’s because police officials are still working out the details of next year’s budget.
“If the funding does not come forth, I believe our department is still committed to the HOST team,” Gay said.
Student groups are also being proactive about safety. The university organization SureWalk, which responds to students’ requests to have someone escort them to their destination for safety reasons, recently got a donation of a few golf carts, McNew said. As a result, volunteers are able to take more people to their locations faster.
Commissioner Kim Rossmo said he had friends looking at colleges who came to Austin to visit UT, took one look at the Drag and canceled their tour. It’s likely that the Drag is affecting admissions, he said.
Rossmo mentioned that the Washington, D.C., business district found success in reducing crime when the district hired security guards. The guards wore yellow uniforms, served as a visible deterrent for crime and cost a fraction of what an offduty police officer would cost, he said.
“Their only job was to be out on the street” and help people or call the police if they saw a problem, Rossmo said.
McNew said she was familiar with that concept and that the University of Southern California implemented a similar program after a USC student was killed.
“We have told the University of Texas about that,” McNew says. “We would love that. How we make that happen, I don’t know.”
A safety organization, SafeHorns, was founded last year after a UT freshman was killed on campus, and it has focused on reducing crime on the stretch of Guadalupe Street known as the Drag.