APD's proposed booking facility worries nearby homeowners

AUSTIN -- The Austin Police Department wants to build a new booking facility in Northwest Austin, but it's facing some scrutiny from the people who live in a neighborhood nearby.

The proposed site is on city owned land at the intersection of Rutherford Lane and Cameron Road. Less than a mile down the street is Hart Elementary School and the Heritage Hills-Woodbridge neighborhood.

Right now, anyone arrested in Austin is booked into the Travis County Jail downtown.

However, Austin Police Assistant Chief Brian Manley tells KVUE it would be much more cost effective to build their own booking site since they pay to use the Travis County facility.

Manley says in 10 years, it could cost close to $11 million a year to use the current facility.

However, building their own could save an estimated $15 million over the span of 10 years.

Neighbors in Heritage Hills-Woodbridge are concerned about the safety factor of a booking facility so close to their neighborhood and elementary school.

"I don't think that they should have something like that this close to residential neighborhoods, especially one that's been here this long," said resident John McCasland.

"This is a very close-knit neighborhood, and if we have to go to City Council we will go and talk and make sure that everyone hears our concerns. I would suggest that they put it in their neighborhood," said resident Melanie Diggs.

Manley and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo also say the new booking center, which would cost as estimated $5.6 million to build, would increase officer efficiency.

APD estimates that the average officer spends 58 minutes and 12 seconds booking each individual suspect into the Travis County Jail not including the time spent in traffic getting downtown.

Under the new plan, APD wants to position two transport vans in North Austin and two transport vans in South Austin so the officers can drop off a suspect in the van and return to their patrol area.

The vans would then bring the arrested suspects to the new booking facility in Northwest Austin where a person can either bond out, or be transported to the Travis County Jail once they are seen by a magistrate.

According to Manley, the booking center at the Travis County Jail is under stricter regulations since it is attached to a jail.

Building a new, separate booking facility would mean less regulations, more efficiency, quicker booking times and cheaper upkeep.

Not every neighbor in the Northwest Austin area is against the idea, but those who are want to make sure their concerns are heard by City Council before council members vote to approve the facility.

APD will also collect public input and further study the plan before presenting it to Austin City Council for a final vote.


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