COVER University of Texas at Austin student Haruka Weiser was found slain on campus in April 2016. PHOTOS VIA FACEBOOK
by MATTHEW WATKINS
AUSTIN — After the killing of a University of Texas at Austin student whose body was found on campus last school year, the Texas Department of Public Safety wants UT-Austin to have more security guards and fewer homeless people on its grounds.
Those are among a list of recommendations that DPS submitted to the university this week. The school should also upgrade its video surveillance, improve lighting in some areas and limit access to campus buildings at night to people who aren’t UT-Austin students, staff or faculty, the agency said.
In a letter to students on Wednesday, UT-Austin President Greg Fenves said his office has already begun to implement the ideas.
“Keeping our community safe is my first priority,” he said.
DPS began its review in April after 18-year-old freshman dance student Haruka Weiser was found dead in a creek on campus. Meechaiel Criner, a homeless 17-year-old, was later charged in the slaying. Surveillance video showed him standing idly on campus in the hours before her death.
Weiser’s slaying was the first on campus in 50 years. But it nonetheless sparked widespread concern about the safety of the university. Many parents said they were worried about the homeless population.
The DPS report is confidential, and university officials said they don’t plan to release it to the public. But in a cover letter that was published on the university website, DPS Director Steven McCraw said the department found “security vulnerabilities ranging in nature and degree.”
McCraw noted, however, that some of those concerns have already been addressed.
“Those security changes enhanced the overall security of the UT Austin campus, and in some cases, mitigated some of the findings identified in the report,” he wrote.
One such concern was that the university needs to do a better job of communicating with students about keeping safe and staying aware of their personal surroundings. This month, UT-Austin launched a campaign called Be Safe, which encourages students to walk in groups, take advantages of free rides offered by university police and call 911 if they feel unsafe.
The university didn’t detail what it will do about the “presence of transients,” which was a frequently cited worry of parents and others in the campus community after Weiser’s death. In the past, Fenves said he doesn’t want to close off the campus to outside visitors. He said in his letter Wednesday that school will continue “to work with the city and community leaders to address issues related to homelessness in West Campus,” an area right next to the actual UT-Austin campus.
The announcement of the security efforts came a day after a UT-Austin student reported that a “non-UT subject” exposed himself to her just north of campus. The case is being investigated by the campus and Austin police departments.
MATTHEW WATKINS reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print