Police spend more than $1 million to cut crime downtown in 2013

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 17 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Police tell KVUE efforts to curb crime on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway from Trinity Street to east of Interstate 35 are working, but it's not cheap.

As growth continues east of I-35, more are commuting downtown.

"I think they should have more bike paths like this," said rider Sophia Donnelly.

The bike path is designed to keep bikers safe from traffic, but bikers said it's not so much the cars they worry about.

"From our window, we can actually see it happening," said Laura Bradley, who lives one block away.

Bradley said drug activity and aggressive panhandling is forcing her out, and she's moving next month.

"It was 30 degrees outside, and there were eight people in hoodies just standing under the bridge," she said. "It's nice to walk. [I] really like walking downtown. But, I mean, getting hassled both ways to the park -- it gets old."

"[They're] selling drugs. We have a lot of transients that sleep under the bridge during the day time," said commander Troy Officer.

Officer said as more people move downtown, curbing crime, no matter how small, is crucial.

"Imagine that occurring in your front yard everyday, in your neighborhood everyday, in the alleys behind our homes," he said. "For 2013, [we saw] over a 30 percent drop in violent crime in the downtown area command."

Under last year's public order initiative, additional lights, a Halo camera across the street and more patrols helped get those results, but it's not cheap.

"For fiscal year 2013, downtown area command alone spent over $1 million on overtime just for downtown, which is probably six times my normal budget," Officer said.

This year, the department is focused on cutting crime and cost.

"Can we maintain the gains we've achieved with less money and more strategically placed manpower?" Officer said.

After impressive numbers from 2013, people who live and commute downtown said they hope the trend will continue.

"I want it to be cleaned up, not swept under the rug," Bradley said.

Police said a sting last fall along the bike path resulted in 88 arrests.

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