APD to launch new downtown safety initiative - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

APD to launch new downtown safety initiative

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This weekend Austin police will launch a new safety initiative downtown. It's partly in response to the fight video we've been showing you all week.

In late January, someone shot this video of a fight at East 6th Street and I-35. APD is investigating it as a robbery.

Since airing the footage we've learned of more crime there. A manager at Easy Tiger off East 6th says many of her employees park around the interstate. She says some of them have had their cars broken into and one was beat up recently.

On Thursday acting Commander Troy Officer announced his plan to attack the problem. It's called Operation Safe Passage. He will place officers in the parking lots around I-35 on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

"We're trying to create a safe passage for patrons as they leave downtown to head back to their vehicles."

Officer doesn't know how long he'll be able to do this. City council approved 47 additional officers for this budget year--22 of which are scheduled to go to the downtown area. Problem is, the funding isn't available until April. Then, the hiring process starts. The additional officers are a year and a half away.

"This is really where the rubber meets the road," Officer said. "If I had an appropriate number of officers to staff downtown this would be something I attempt to do have officers be in this area be visible but we're really at our bare minimum if not below, so we have to staff this with overtime officers."

Officer says he averages ten officers along 6th Street on a weekend night.

"Vote. When we say support your public safety, support us when we vote for more officers," said Officer.

Council Member Bill Spelman says voting won't solve the problem.

"Even if we had a city council hand-picked by the police department they're still going to run up against the same difficulties that this city council or any city council is going to have," said Spelman. "We've got a fire department that as asking for more, we've got EMS that is asking for more, flood control, parks and libraries."

Spelman says APD must do a better job of explaining why they need more.

"Unfortunately APD is the one department that hasn't justified on the basis of workload or crime rate or calls for service," said Spelman. "I like to see how we are going to be safer because we have more police officers than otherwise."

Downtown patrons may see a difference this weekend.

Officer says last year, downtown officers conducted several public order initiatives lowering the violent crime rate by 30 percent. He says that was an all-time low since the department began keeping records.

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