CrimeWatch: More Officers Downtown - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

CrimeWatch: More Officers Downtown


Starting Sunday, July 18th, there will be more Austin Police officers patrolling the Entertainment District.

The APD is adding an extra evening shift to the Downtown Area Command. Officers who worked the evening shift say it is the most challenging in the department.

"Dealing with multiple fights at one time, having bottles thrown at us."

The evening shift comes with its own demands. Breaking up fights and getting injured are part of the job. Corporal Shannon Dowell worked the evening shift for years. He now works the day shift.

"Almost all the time, it goes to the ground so you've got pavers, you've got on bicycle shorts, you've got scrapes and abrasions, bare minimum."

"From the pavers out here, I've got staph infections from the funky stuff on the ground out here."

"Guys will start fighting five feet away from you when you're trying to get a piece of pizza and they don't see you because there's so many people out so you're immediately there in the middle of this violent episode and you're putting hands on people."

Many, if not all, the altercations are alcohol related. Officer Bryan Green works the day shift Downtown but remembers working the evening shift and during peak hours, how hard it was.

"We're short handed."

"We get a large amount of people on the streets, all at once, they've all been drinking and we have to deal with that all at once."

APD adds a third evening shift starting July 18th. That means 8 extra officers, a Corporal, and a Sergeant. Manpower that police say is much needed.

Commander Mercelino Gonzales is the head of the North Bureau, which includes the Downtown area.

"Those peak hours and days that we traditionally didn't have coverage, we will have a third shift."

He says Saturday nights were the biggest challenge because there was only one evening shift working. Gonzales also says with the extra officers, the department will save money because they won't need to hire overtime officers for events like the Pecan Street Festival.

But large events such as Halloween, South by Southwest, and the Texas Relays will still require overtime officers.

The extra shift is possible because the most recent cadet class, that has been delayed by budget cuts, has finally finished its riding period and are now cut loose. But none of them can work Downtown.

Commander Gonzales says his officers have to have at least two years experience because rookies can over react.

" You're fresh out of the cadet class and you hadn't actually been there but role playing of taking these calls so I'm sure emotions arise, you know, you can react."

While the extra evening shift will add manpower, it will also require those officers to work eight consecutive weekends instead of four because of the nature of the rotation. But Commander Gonzales says the new shift will give the officers more chances to take vacation and days off, much needed time away from a shift that many say has a high burn out factor.

Follow Jenni on Twitter@jennileefox7.


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