The University of Texas Police Department is calling on city leaders to ban camping on public space near the Forty Acres.
In a letter to Mayor Steve Adler and members of the Austin City Council, UTPD Chief David Carter asked the city to prohibit encampments near the West Campus area, citing safety concerns among students living in the dense neighborhood across from campus. Since the city council passed revised rules on where people can rest, camp or panhandle, he said, his department has responded to more calls about "predatory and harassing behavior" along the strip of Guadalupe Street known as the Drag.
Please see my letter to @MayorAdler & council on behalf of @UTAustin asking that they work to improve public safety by prohibiting camping by members of the public along the entire perimeter of campus, as well as west of campus where many students live, work and gather. pic.twitter.com/PAkrZWCEbZ
— Chief David Carter (@UTPDChiefCarter) August 28, 2019
"The City has a responsibility not only to seek appropriate housing and treatment for the homeless, but to recognize that the interface of young students and some subsets of the homeless community have created potential dangers," Carter wrote. "This view is not based on discriminatory practices but, rather, on real-world experiences of members of the UT community."
Carter said the area's student housing population and its high pedestrian traffic would qualify it as a prohibitive area, per a new city plan to reconsider its scale-back of city rules.
Last week, council members suggested they may prohibit camping along areas with high pedestrian or vehicle traffic, like downtown Austin, or near schools.
The city used to prohibit camping, sitting or lying down and panhandling in the downtown area until a June 20 council vote rolled back those rules. Council members also passed a resolution directing Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk to come back to council with suggestions by the end of August on short- and long-term solutions to homelessness. One possible strategy included the manager's office compiling a list of areas in which the city would ban those behaviors.
Austin City Council members expect to act on those suggestions in September.