Campus Explainer: UPD, HPD jurisdiction differences

Sam Houston State University and the city of Huntsville have managed to maintain a strong police presence comprised of both the University and Huntsville Police Departments.

“With the increasing need for security, law enforcement agencies rely on partnerships to handle the demands placed on university and community law enforcement resources,” Director of Emergency Management David Yebra said. “Our partnership with the City of Huntsville and Walker County is strong. That relationship creates the foundation for the sharing of best practices, familiarity with how we conduct operations, and the overall climate of law enforcement on campus and in the community.”

With the presence of two police departments in the city, many wonder what the different territories under each police departments’ jurisdiction are.

“Although we have formally defined areas designated as university property, this does not preclude UPD from taking action off of our property,” Yebra said. “As defined by the Texas Education Code, university police have jurisdiction in every county where the Institution of Higher Education owns property, rents property or the property is otherwise under its control.”

Therefore, UPD patrol all areas of SHSU Main Campus, the University Plaza, Agriculture Center, Bearkat Camp, Sam South, The Woodlands Center, Gibbs Ranch, the strip mall and any other property that is controlled by the university. However, UPD can act outside their designated jurisdiction when certain situations arise.

“Our UPD officers respond to emergency situations as they encounter them,” Yebra said. “We will concurrently notify HPD if the situation warrants additional investigation or processing that will require HPD to handle. We will also remain on the scene until relieved of responsibility by the Huntsville Police Department.”

This means that UPD has the authority to administer citations on public streets such as Sam Houston Avenue and respond if they witness a crime on an off-campus property such as the Arbors.

“We share emergency information in many ways that include constant communication with our respective dispatch centers, the monitoring of our respective law enforcement radio communication nets, and with specific requests for assistance,” Yebra said. “We also have events that require additional security and we plan on the involvement of community law enforcement resources to augment our force.”

Both police departments work together to establish a heavy police presence and maintain a safe environment in Huntsville.

“Due to the seamless interaction between the University, the City of Huntsville, and Walker County, our respective law enforcement agencies maintain continuous situational awareness of activities on and off campus,” Yebra said. 

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