Students at St. Edward’s University tend to feel safe when roaming the 160-acre hilltop. However, the private liberal institution’s small size is deceptive of the amount of crime that occurs in the surrounding neighborhoods and on campus. Along with the crime attributed to the 78704-zip code, many students are unaware of the varied resources available in the event of an emergency.
However, this is not a reality that is translated on other institutions– especially larger public universities like The University of Texas.
This past week, a tragic stabbing left three students wounded and one dead. This comes a little over a year after UT freshman, Haruka Weiser was found dead in Waller Creek on campus.
The ripples of unsafety linger only for a few days at a small campus like St. Edward’s before students return to their day-to-day lives.
Students on the Hilltop feel safe for the most part by only taking minor precautions when roaming campus at night:
While the most popular crimes on campus concern bicycle theft and alcohol consumption by minors, St. Edward’s location in the 78704-postal code is notoriously high in crime.
Source: Austin Police Department
Source: Austin Police Department, Austin Crime Reports, and Trulia Crime Reports
Off campus crime finds its way onto campus throughout the year. Several times in the past, the university was placed under lockdown after armed suspects fled onto campus.
These incidents have become acquainted to St. Edward’s; however, many other crimes continue to go unnoticed.
The National Campus Crime Statistics Act, better known as the Clery Act, requires all college campuses to publish a report with all crimes reported that year.
These statistics revealed a spike in rapes on campus with 6 rapes in 2014 to 16 rapes in 2015.
Many St. Edward’s students were unaware of the spike in rapes, as well as their access to the crime report that the St. Edward’s University Police Department publishes every year.
One reason for the spike in rape reports could be due to the increase in education for students. With better sexual violence education, students claim to feel more comfortable about writing reports, and seeking help from the university.
However, not only have St. Edward’s students been unaware of the crime that plagues the surrounding neighborhoods, they have also been oblivious to the many on campus resources available for emergency situations.
In fact, little students know there are 23 emergency call boxes (indicated by candles on the map) located throughout campus that can connect students to a dispatcher at all times.
Despite the student’s lack of awareness, St. Edward’s police claim that along with continuously patrolling campus at night, there are a variety of resources to assure on-campus safety.
These resources, however, seem to be a little outdated. This most likely being the lead cause for the lack of awareness.
Commander Homer Huerta, who has worked for UPD the past 20 years, claims that the St. Edward’s police department have dedicated this year working on a new campus safety app, “Topper Safe,” in attempts to make on campus sources more readily accessible and updated.
Huerta attests that department is working to alter campus safety through its willingness to adjust to the needs of students:
From the beginning we realized we had a strong group of girls, and that together we could all equally tackle the assignment. The idea of one of our group members slacking off never crossed our minds, as it also never occurred.
Originally, we assigned Carlye and Olivia to the task of compiling the data and creating spreadsheets and charts. Carlye assigned to campus crime, and Olivia to the surrounding areas. Carlye and Olivia used crime statistics from Austin Police Department (2013-2016) and St. Edward’s Clery Report (2014-2016) . Myrka and Elizabeth were put to the task of finding interview subjects, as well as setting up interview times. We were to complete our individual tasks and be prepared to present our work at the following meeting.
After compiling data, Carlye and Olivia went around campus to take photographs for the interactive map. Of the interview subjects Myrka and Elizabeth went around campus and filmed a series of student interviews. Unfortunately, Commander Huerta refused to allow us to record his interview. However, he did agree to let us record his audio.
When all of our data was collected, and the interviews recorded we began to brainstorm what our main focus would be. We found that little students were aware of the crime and resources on campus. Being in an area with high crime rates, we thought it was important to better educate students on the matter.
After agreeing on our focus, we started the daunting task of putting our project together. Olivia created the final interactive map, Carlye, the group secretary, recorded each member’s contributions and edited the audio recording, Elizabeth edited the videos, and Myrka laid the foundations for the final written story. Collectively in the end, we all edited the final story, perfected the charts and tables, and compiled the multi-media and story onto the blog.
In the end, this was a very effective group. All members contributed equally, attended all meetings, and added to the overall effectiveness of the group.