UT Police Department officers not only protect and serve the campus community — they also help feed it.
UTPD rewarded undeclared sophomore Whitney Jameson with a cheese pizza Sunday evening after she reported a theft that resulted in the recovery of seven stolen bikes on campus. Jameson, a security coordinator at Kinsolving Residence Hall, said she observed a man cutting bike locks last Monday at 5:45 a.m. outside of Duren Residence Hall and called police in time for them to make a connected arrest.
“I felt like such a good citizen,” Jameson said. “Working nights is pretty basic, so stopping something bad from actually happening felt pretty good.”
UTPD officer Dustin Farahnak responded to the incident and helped recover the bikes. For over a decade, UTPD’s Hungry for Justice program has awarded about four pizzas a year to people who report crimes on campus that result in an arrest, Farahnak said.
“It’s fun for the officers because we get to meet the party who saved the day and buy them lunch, and it gets the word out a little bit,” Farahnak said. “We would like to see a lot more reports than that. I’d be happy to do this every single day.”
Farahnak said officers are still trying to return six of the bikes to their owners and suggested ways to protect bikes on campus.
“Double-lock your bike, know your serial number, register it at Parking and Transportation — those things are going to make you a lot less susceptible to being a victim of bike theft,” Farahnak said. “We also engrave driver’s license numbers onto bikes for free at the station because every cop in Texas will be able to identify it after that.”
Farahnak said in addition to these safeguards, UTPD relies on the whole community to report and prevent crimes like these from taking place.
“There’s a commonality between bike theft and other kinds of crimes,” Farahnak said. “In this case, the criminal had crystal meth and warrants, so calling it in really helped the community.”
To encourage more students to report crime, the department is both rebranding and expanding the program, UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said. It is now called Safer by the Slice.
“We have been rewarding students, faculty and staff with a free pizza for a while now under our Hungry for Justice program,” Newton said in an email. “The program started with bike theft only, but we have expanded it to include all crimes.”
Jameson said she hopes the program’s expansion will incentivize students to report crime across campus.
“Our police department is kind of small compared to how large our campus is, and I think the program helps people take action when they see questionable things going on,” Jameson said. “At the bare minimum, it helps the police department have eyes everywhere, even if they’re not there.”
Originally published in The Daily Texan on January 27, 2019
By Hayden Baggett
Photo: Elizabeth Garabedian