The University of Texas Police Department is designated solely to protect the students living within the 431 acres that campus encompasses, leaving a sizable proportion of students living off-campus completely out of their jurisdiction. 

Despite a large number of the 17,000 residents being UT students, the densely populated area of West Campus falls outside of the jurisdiction of the University of Texas Police Department and into the hands of the City of Austin. This means UTPD has no authority over safety measures that keep nearly half of the University’s students safe.

The neighborhood is roughly 10 blocks wide by 10 blocks long, bordering W 9th St, Guadalupe St, N Lamar Blvd and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Consequently, the Austin Police Department has complete jurisdiction over the area, though their commitment to the entire city of Austin makes it difficult to commit their interests solely to the University. With crime rates higher than 96% of other Texas cities, poor lighting infrastructure and construction wrapping the city, APD is faced with many external demands that ultimately fail to prioritize Longhorn students. Due to these blurred lines and overall lack of initiative, the University has fallen short in protecting a large proportion of its student population.

In 2020, the University initiated the “West Campus Initiative.” The West Campus Initiative was an $8 million safety initiative created to increase safety measures for Texas Longhorns living off-campus. It intended to increase police visibility and provide additional support to law enforcement in the area. The initiative established a new police district with 13 new officers and implemented two additional officers to serve as district representatives and liaisons within the community. These officers ask students to email them with any non-urgent concerns and to call 911 in the case of an emergency.

Additionally, as part of the initiative, a satellite office at the corner of 25th St. and Guadalupe was created. Here, students can report emergencies directly to an officer or hit a 911 call button in case of emergency. 

In 2021, SafeHorns helped add an additional safety resource on the block of 23rd St. in the Artists’ Market alleyway by the Co-Op storefront. This resource, called a blue box, was placed strategically so students could call 911 with the push of a button. This ensures that Longhorns can take quick action by always having access to emergency services whether or not they have a phone with them. 

In September 2022, we also collaborated with Austin Energy to bring more secure lighting to the off-campus neighborhood. Now, students rely on nearly 600 LED light bulbs to illuminate their walk home at night. Additionally, non-functional lighting infrastructures were fixed, trees were trimmed to allow lighting to seep through the area and the electricity company added an additional 15 streetlights in the area of UT Austin’s West Campus. These additions not only help students feel safe, but allows others around them to look out for each other as fellow students.