Policy Recommendations Relating to Campus Security

Over the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of media coverage revolving around crimes on college campuses. Most notably, crime on college campuses has been driven into a statewide spotlight because of events such as the alleged sexual assault cover-ups recently at Baylor University and the murder of a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Even though the legislators from the State of Texas have attempted to rectify faults in campus security, the legislation that does make it through to the Governor’s desk mandates that action be taken, but does not have an enforcement mechanism. This research project will analyze data, provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, collected from public university campuses between the years of 2000–2015. Subsequently, using information from The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Department of Public Safety, two policy recommendations will be made: (a) making campus security assessments mandatory and (b) increasing the amount of funding given to university police departments to help minimize property crimes.


Data Analysis

Texas has seen a consistent drop in crime rates across the state. Between 1984 and 2013, crime in Texas has dropped by 54 percent, a larger drop than the national average of 50 percent.[1] This trend is also prevalent in the data for crimes on public college campuses.

Figure 1 details the average number of violent crimes committed on public university campuses. The average number of violent crimes from year to year is fairly inconsistent, with the exception of the range from 2002–2006, which shows a relative consistency. Most notably, the absolute number of violent crimes committed is relatively low.

Figure 1: Average Number of Violent Crimes Committed on Public University Campuses

Figure 2 details the average number of property crimes committed on public university campuses. This data, unlike the average number of violent crimes, has a very consistent downward trend. Unlike the data presented in Figure 1, the absolute number of property crimes committed is much higher with a ratio of 49:1.

Figure 2: Average Number of Property Crimes Committed on Public University Campuses

History of Campus Safety Measures

Texas has taken a stab at ensuring campus safety with legislation, such as HB 699, which was passed and signed by Governor Abbott, effective June 19, 2016, during the 84th Legislative Session. This bill required institutions of higher education to adopt and establish a sexual assault policy. This includes, but is not limited to: (a) adopting definitions of prohibited behavior; (b) sanctions for violating the prohibited behavior; and (c) the protocol for reporting and responding to reports of campus sexual assault. While this is a step in the right direction, there is no enforcement mechanism, therefore making it essentially useless. Also born of the 84th Legislature was HB 1744, authored by Rep. Mary González. This bill would have allowed for the establishing of survey and report on campus safety at public institutions of higher education[2]. Unfortunately, this bill was referred to the Higher Education Committee where the bill died.


Policy Recommendation 1 — Mandatory Campus Security Assessments:

The following policy recommendation reiterates some of the language that was placed in HB 1744, authored by Rep. González.

After the murder of a University of Texas student., President Greg Fenves requested that the Texas Department of Public Safety assess the campus for potential security vulnerabilities that the university could rectify. As a result of the security assessment, DPS was able to identify security vulnerabilities ranging in nature and degree, and included findings related to lighting, video surveillance coverage, access control usage and policies, mechanical equipment related to securing facilities, and staffing related to security and police policies.[3]

The assessment yielded results that the university was able to rectify immediately, including better lighting in areas and the clearing of excessive vegetation and overgrowth to increase visibility and developing policies that reduce the presence of transients on campus. More long term solutions were suggested as well, such as adding additional public safety staff (including more UTPD officers) and security guards able to assist with campus patrols. [4]

The policy recommendation would be to create a mandatory campus security assessments for public universities. This task would be delegated to DPS since their department is equipped to perform these sorts of tasks, thus minimizing cost. Moreover, public universities can request that DPS perform campus security assessments, as seen above, however, it is completely at the discretion of the institution. Ultimately, legislation would require campuses to perform security assessments bi-annually, which, as in the case of UT Austin, would be performed by DPS.


Policy Recommendation 2: Increase University Police Department Funding to Minimize Property Crimes

An interesting difference between the two data sets, Average Violent Crimes and Average Property Crimes, is the amount of crimes that take place. Mentioned previously, the ratio of property crimes to violent crimes on Texas public university campuses is 49:1. The best way to remedy this situation would be for the State of Texas to provide more money to University Police Departments to increase their presence on campus.

By increasing the amount of funding earmarked for University Police Departments, this would allow for more officers to be hired and equipment to be upgraded. By increasing the amount of officers visible to university students and transients, inherently, property crimes should go down. For the entire State of Texas the Department of Public Safety saw, “the number of property crimes reported in 2014 was 804,555 [and] property crimes decreased 6.5 percent from 2013” [5]. This comes as the funding for the Texas Department of Public Safety was increased from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014 as shown in Figure 3[6].

Figure 3: Total Money Requested by the Texas Department of Public Safety

Ultimately, while this correlation can not be absolutely solidified there is good evidence presented in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s request to the Legislative Budget Board for the FY 2016–2017, where much of the increase being proposed funnels toward increasing the budget for patrolling, as shown in Figure #4.

Figure #4: Cost of Patrolling Estimated by the Texas Department of Public Safety

All data used in the production of Figure #1 and #2 was obtained from “Table 9” from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Crime in the US” databases.

All data used in the production of Figure #3 and #4 was obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s “ Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017” submitted to the Legislative Budget Board.

Footnotes

[1] Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law, Texas Fact Sheet: What Caused the Crime Decline https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/texas-fact-sheet-what-caused-crime-decline

[2] Texas Legislature Online, HB 1744

[3] Letter from DPS Director Steven C. McCraw to UT President Greg Fenves on August 25, 2016

[4] Campus Safety Recommendations from DPS, Letter sent from UT President Greg Fenves to Students on the University of Texas at Austin Campus on August 31, 2016

[5] 2014 Crime in Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety

[6] Legislative Appropriations Request for the Texas Department of Public Safety FY 2014–2015, Legislative Budget Board