Book ‘Em Horns: Between the Lines of UT’s “Campus Watch”
More minutiae from the University of Texas at Austin's infamously comic police blotter, including memories from longtime author Darrell Halstead and the story of a student who "made" Campus Watch.
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An item that you didn’t read on the University of Texas Police Department’s Campus Watch:
DKR- TEXAS MEMORIAL STADIUM, 2200 Robert Dedman
Robbery: UT staff members, faculty, students, and Texas Exes are reporting that multiple items have been taken from this area of campus between 2010 and this past Saturday, including, but not limited to, All-American quarterback play, national championship-caliber coaching and high school-level tackling ability.
That’s not a real item because a) Campus Watch would never dis its neighbors on the Longhorns football team and b) Campus Watch would actually be more subtle, as Crime Prevention Unit Officer Darrell Halstead was on December 1, 2008:
DKR- TEXAS MEMORIAL STADIUM, 2200 Robert Dedman
Robbery: Several UT staff members, faculty, students, and Texas Ex’s discovered a fraction of a percentage point had been taken and was transported across state lines. The percentage point was discovered north of the Red River at the campus of another Big 12 South University.
Remember that BCS controversy? Seems like the good old days now.
Anyway, in a recent story I wrote about the UTPD’s infamously snarky blotter, interviewing Halstead and the crime report’s current authors, Officer Jimmy Moore and Officer Layne Brewster. But there wasn’t room for everything.
IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON
As usual, the first entry of September was a winner, thanks to UT football’s home opener last weekend. Three favorites (bold emphasis mine):
DARRELL K. ROYAL MEMORIAL STADIUM, 2207 ROBERT DEDMAN DRIVE
Theft: A UT Student reported his iPhone missing after he celebrated a touchdown at the UT Football game. An unidentified witness stated, “a subject picked up the cellphone and continued walking up the steps.”
Public Intoxication: A UT Student enjoyed the UT Football game so much that he attempted to walk onto the field. Law Enforcement personnel observed the subject swaying and stumbling before falling down the stairs leading to the field. The subject was arrested for Public Intoxication and was transported to Central Booking.
Public Intoxication: A UT Student was seen attempting to use his Chase bank card as a ticket in order to enter the UT Football game. The subject continued to “Chase what matters” and eventually located his ticket to gain admittance into the game. The subject displayed several signs of intoxication including a bloody nose. The subject was provided the opportunity to phone a friend but he was unable to successfully use his phone. After being out smarted by his smart phone, the subject was arrested for Public Intoxication and was transported to Central Booking. Occurred on: 08/31/13, at 7:20 PM.
The SBNation blog Barking Carnival also took delight in the shenanigans (it was a simpler time, before anybody knew BYU quarterback Taysom Hill’s name). Click the link to read commentary on each crime from “SPIDER,” who also wrote:
AND NO NONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE ME I’LL SUE YOU IF YOU PRINT THAT I’LL SUE YOU IN THE UK WHERE YOU HAVE TO PROVE WHAT’S IN MY HEAD HA HA HA HA HA
“DON’T END UP ON CAMPUS WATCH”
But thanks to the magic of Twitter journalism, I did find somebody who was on Campus Watch: a student who graduated in 2012, and doesn’t need future employers Googling this article.
The Texas Ex–let’s call him “Bevo”–was out around Austin’s 6th Street on night of December 30, 2010, and into the morning of December 31.
“I was very drunk, I was trying to walk back home from downtown,” “Bevo” recalls. “My friends, they called me, said ‘stay where you are, we’re gonna come get you.’ I happened to be on campus, so I stayed where I was. I was on the phone with them for a long time: they said about twenty minutes, trying to describe where I was so they could come get me. At some point I decided to lay down because I was just that drunk. And the squad car pulled up.”
Here’s the actual item:
REC SPORTS CENTER, 2001 San Jacinto Blvd.
Public Intoxication: A UT student was discovered laying on top of a brick wall. The officer asked the student if he had been consuming any alcohol. With a thick tongued response, the student informed the officer that he had “2, 3, and 4″ alcoholic beverages. The officer detected a very strong odor of alcohol on the student’s breath. The student could not remember where he lived or where he had been, but knew it was two hours away. The student was taken into custody for Public Intoxication and was transported to Central Booking. Occurred on: 12-31-10, at 1:25 AM.
“All that is pretty accurate,” “Bevo” says. “‘With a thick-tongued response,’ that’s definitely true. ‘Student could not remember where he lived,’ I remember saying that. And I was about a ten minute walk from my house at the time. So that was a pretty gross estimation. They told me they were taking me to booking, and I seem to remember saying, ‘that makes sense.'”
A former copy editor at the Daily Texan, “Bevo” didn’t think about the fact that he’d achieved Internet infamy until winter break was over.
“Every so often when we have space we’ll run a funny Campus Watch [in the Texan]. When I got back the next semester, I told everybody what had happened and they said, ‘Oh my God, were you in Campus Watch?’ That was their first reaction. So of course we had to run that in the paper. At once a badge of honor and shame.
“It was always parting words at the Daily Texan, whenever somebody leaves the basement: ‘All right, don’t end up on Campus Watch.'”
MORE FROM DARRELL HALSTEAD
Now back on patrol, Halstead’s way with words and trademark catch-phrases made him something of a cult figure during his decade-plus as one of Campus Watch’s authors. A few more memories from him:
- “We started sending it out in 1999. We had probably about thirty people on a weekly basis that would come to the police department and see what types of crime were occuring on campus, so we extended the option to [everyone]. We sent out a huge email blast every day to faculty, staff and students–honestly, that’s when I learned that spam was more than just a meat by-product, to show you how stupid I was when it came to computer language. I kept getting these emails from certain people saying, “quit spamming me,” and I had no idea what they were talking about. I responded saying, there was nothing that involved meat by-products with this, and one guy explained to me what spam was. So we quit sending out the email blast, but the last email that was blasted, we said, for those that were interested, they could sign up.”
- “The subscriptions kept increasing year in and year out, but it plateaued about 2003, 2004. That’s when Bill Pieper and I started adding some humor to it. Bill came across with his country witticisms. His joke–how he typically starts his presentations–is, “Hello folks, my name’s William Robert Pieper: that’s right, I’m from Texas, my parent’s named me Billy Bob.” My sarcasm, the snark, was between the lines. You had to read it to understand it, and if you were just glancing over it, you would miss some of the hidden meaning behind the jokes.”
- “A good example would be this raccoon that was over at Bridgeway. I had a captain yelling at me from down the hallway for me to get into his office right now! And he asked me, who were the officers that did not catch this guy after they had searched the building, knowing that he was still in there? I said, ‘Captain, you didn’t read it very well did you? You got to about halfway through it and just quit didn’t you?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, why?’ I say, ‘Well, finish reading it.’ So he re-read it, and he read all the way through, and he said, ‘You’re a smartass.’
- “The orientation advisers that meet with the new freshmen, every year they have what they call “Halstead Bingo.” They take those phrases, like the different OU jokes, the different A&M jokes, the different ways to describe vomiting without saying vomiting, or peeing on yourself without saying peeing on yourself, and have a little game with it during the summer to see what I come out with.”
- “In 2005, we had a parent that wrote in saying, hey look, guys, you all do a great job on this Campus Watch, I don’t want somebody to get accused of a crime that they didn’t do. And she went on to tell me the story about the squirrel over at Kinsolving that had jumped on a bicycle seat and literally tore the stuffing out of the seat. She had thrown water on the squirrel, the squirrel jumped off and jumped back up to continue destroying the bicycle seat. She had written it up, and I probably got 350 or 400 emails that day asking if there was a picture. So I wrote the lady, she sent me a picture of the squirrel, and the following day I put out a BOLO, (“be on the lookout”), and made it a very formal-sounding BOLO. You had to click on the picture to see that what we were looking for was a squirrel. And that really generated a lot of talk and dicussion about the Campus Watch. The story got picked up locally by TV news, and about a year and a half later it was picked up again in the Reader’s Digest, under “campus humor.” Which is the purpose behind the Campus Watch. It allows people to see the crimes that are occurring on campus, it allows them to see the buildings that are being affected by crime, kind of a time frame, the property that’s being stolen, how it’s being stolen…. But more importantly, adding the crime prevention tips, so you can see that if you yourself were in that situation, how you can best safeguard your own personal property, and not become a victim of a crime. It was probably one of the best crime prevention tools our department ever developed.”
IT WAS MORE “META” THAN IRONIC, BUT…
My favorite entry of Jimmy Moore’s tenure to date is probably this one:
LAVACA BUILDING, 220 WEST 7TH STREET Graffiti
A UT Police Officer observed an ironic crime, which was the word “crime” written in white spray paint on a window at the Lavaca Building. The Graffiti was approximately ten inches by eighteen inches in size.
But Alanis Morissette-inspired laughs aside, graffiti is a topic that the Crime Prevention Unit stresses.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that graffiti on a campus is a felony, and it’s very serious,” Moore told me. “And so we put that information out there to make sure they’re aware of it.”
“It would be horrible to have a felony on your record because you spray-painted something while you were in college,” added Layne Brewster. “People just don’t realize the seriousness of certain crimes because it is a state institution.”