APD to discuss downtown safety


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE


Posted on February 18, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 7:37 PM

AUSTIN -- The Austin Police Department invited downtown employees to discuss downtown safety issues.

The meeting was scheduled for Tuesday at police headquarters, but only one tenant showed up. Chief Art Acevedo says he didn’t give enough notice and rescheduled the event for Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

The Bar Owners Association will help host the event, and a location will be determined this week.

Police said the fight caught on camera that went viral last month spurred the idea for this conversation. Acevedo says the city isn’t going to tolerate fights like the one caught on camera on East Sixth Street last month.

Acevedo says despite these types of incidents, Austin is still one of the safest business districts in the country. According to statistics from the police department, they worked 12 aggravated assaults downtown since the first of the year.

"Austin's Sixth Street is pretty safe compared to most cities,” said Steve Simon, a longtime worker and resident of Sixth Street.

"I don't feel comfortable with more police. I would feel comfortable with less police and less cameras and get rid of the inner problem, which is the homeless here,” said Simon.

Acevedo says cameras are there to deter crime.

"Quite frankly, I want people to think police are watching when they are going to commit a crime on our streets. I think that's a win for everybody," Acevedo said.

APD Chief of Staff Raul Munguia says they can't have an officer on every corner all the time, but having more out there helps.

"We increased the presence. That presence is what drove the crime back down. So, presence does make a difference,” said Munguia.

However, following the fight video posted online, police enacted Operation Safe Passage, putting more officers near Sixth Street and close to parking lots at Interstate 35.

Now they're reaching out to bar owners and employees.

"We just wanted to start a dialogue with them, so we can get some input from them,” said Munguia.

They want to see what they can do to help them feel safe as they leave work on those late nights.