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Universities take measures to increase safety on campuses

HOUSTON – It's a rite of passage for Emily Boyett and her mother, Lisa: College move-in day at the University of Houston.
“We've been waiting for this for a long time," Boyett said.

And while Boyett may be focused on class schedules and dorm decorations, her mom is thinking about her baby girl's safety.

“Just being aware of your surroundings, and if you get that gut check, or you feel insecure or unsafe, just, you know, call somebody or walk the other way,” Boyett's mom said.

Not far from her mind is the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser who was killed last April as she walked to her dorm.

“Very sad and concerned for the family and the situation,” Boyett's mother said.

That high-profile crime forced UT to review its entire security plan, the associate vice president for campus safety and security at UT Austin, Bob Harkins, said.

“We have tried to learn as much as we can from all of the tragedies that have gone on,” Harkins said.

The university upgraded its shuttle and escort program, taking it over from student volunteers and adding late night service.

“Parking and transportation and student government are working together to put a Sure Walk program, which we've been running all summer, that runs seven days a week," Harkins said.

The campus has an emergency text alert system, a network of warning sirens and uses social media to spread urgent messages. The UT Police Department is also now working with the Department of Public Safety to identify areas where security needs improvement.

“That's looking at anywhere from technology of cameras and building access and vegetation, shrubbery, landscaping, lighting, trying to look across the broad spectrum, as well as police procedures and staffing there,” Harkins said.

John Holmes, the associate vice president for Facilities and Campus Operations, said technology is something Houston Baptist University has embraced.

“We've updated all of our emergency call boxes on campus," he said. "We've added 18 new call boxes.”

AT HBU, when someone uses one of the boxes to call for help, a camera comes on. That way officers can see the person.

Plus, all the other cameras in the area also turn on. That way officers get a 360-degree view of what's happening around the person who's calling for help.

The campus closes itself off at night, allowing only one way on and off campus. A license plate reader catches vehicles that don't belong.

“We load in any individual who's had an issue here on campus with the school or with a student, and maybe we have a restraining order or criminal trespass warrant on that individual, and if they come past that camera it would flag them as well,” Holmes said.

On Houston's southeast side, Texas Southern University, a campus plagued with recent violence, is monitored 24/7 by campus police, who have access to 1,000 real-time security cameras.

“We had four actual gun violence incidents on our campus and two homicides,” TSU Chief of Police Remon Green said. “We utilize this real-time video center to augment where we are not physically. So where you may not see us from a physical standpoint, we're there virtually.”

Campus police unveiled the Live Safe app that allows students to have friends, even their parents, track them virtually on campus.

TSU added new lighting and student housing patrols as well.

“We've done a pretty good job at turning things around here,” Green said.

The University of Houston has more than 1,430 monitored security cameras. The campus is also testing 16 license plate readers.

Rice University has recently added more security cameras and offers active shooter training for students and the community.

At Texas A&M, students can have their bikes and other personal property engraved by the police department to help prevent theft.

But every police chief KPRC Channel 2 News spoke with said alert students are the best defense against campus crime.

 “You know, you see the students walking around with their earphones in and their cellphone buried in their face, with no knowledge of what's going on around them. You know, it takes everybody to help us out here,” Harkins said.

A CLOSER LOOK AT CAMPUS SECURITY BY UNIVERSITY
***NOTE: These are only highlights from each university. For a more thorough list, please visit each campus' website or reach out directly to the campus.

UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON
 
• 62 authorized police positions
• 131 authorized security positions
• 1,430 security cameras monitored by a 24 hours Virtual Patrol Room staff
• 156 callboxes and emergency phones with direct access to police dispatch
• 3,573 electronic access points covering almost all campus buildings
• 16 license plate readers installed and being tested
• Security lighting across campus enhanced through annual Walk in the Dark events cosponsored by the Police Department and student government
• Security escort program operated by the security unit of the Police Department, available to any community member
• Various safety trainings and resources for the community
 
RICE UNIVERSITY
 

• PD campus patrol 24/7
• Police escorts
• Emergency text/email system
• Blue phones
• Outdoor speakers (recently installed)
• Security cameras (recently expanded)
• Active shooter training for students/community
 
TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
 
• LiveSafe app for campus community
• “More versatile” body cameras
• “Tip line”
• Upgraded “real time” security cameras
• Increased patrol of student housing (in peak hours)
• “See Something, Say Something” social media campaign

ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY
 
• Emergency call boxes
• Security escorts
• Shuttle services
• Emergency preparedness alert system
 
HOUSTON BAPTIST UNIVERSITY

• Plate readers
• Campus lockdown capability
• 18 blue phones w/cameras
• 911 Shield app (allows them to locate the student more precisely). App also allows students to inform friends when they leave campus. If they aren't back in an hour app will text family/friends
• HBU alert system (text/voice emergency updates)
• PD campus patrol
 
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
 
• Plate readers (used by parking enforcement)
• 6 non-university sponsored safety apps; as well as Austin PD & Austin 311
• SureWalk program (hours are from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.)
• Text alerts
• PA system
• Safe strides (officer gives students on-campus tours to show hidden hazards)
• Rape aggression defense (self-defense class)
 
TEXAS A&M
 
• Blue phones
• Corps escort program
• Code maroon (emergency alert system)
• Free property engraving
• Active shooter training
 
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M
 
• Plate readers
• High-resolution security cameras
• Remote campus lockdown capability
• Panther Alert (emergency notification via email/text for students and parents)
• Safety app (not sponsored through campus security)
• Blue phones
• Security to patrol escort to/from class
 
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
 
• Plate reader technology
• BU Campus Guardian Safety app
• Intrusion and duress alarm systems
• Security escorts
• Security cameras
• Card access at entry points
• Emergency call boxes
• “Safe Place" online exchanges (for purchases made on Craigslist, Facebook or other online means, students can meet in lobby of PD)