AUSTIN - Austin police and community leaders listened to several students discuss how to increase safety in their once high crime neighborhood of Rundberg Lane.
The Rundberg Educational Advancement District, or READ, discussion took place at the Dr. Guerrero Thompson Elementary School on Saturday morning.
The student civic forum included fourth through seventh graders from Dobie, Guerrero-Thompson, Barrington, Hart, and Harmony schools.
"When I'm walking, they always give me a weird stare. That's what creeps me out, not creeps me out but scares me a little bit," Castanon said.
Castanon lives near Rundberg Lane, an area once known for its drugs, prostitution and high crime. But now, senior patrol officer for Austin police, Rafael Kianes, said, "it's night and day."
Rundberg Lane is now a place where neighbors aren't afraid to go for a walk, exercise and play outside.
In 2014, Austin police, University of Texas researchers and neighborhood associations rolled out Restore Rundberg. The program started with a million dollar grant that paid for police overtime in the area's new walking beat.
"By doing so, we were able to tackle these problems at a much faster pace," said officer Kianes.
Police say the approach worked. From 2011 to 2016, they said violent crimes dropped by 50 percent in the Rundberg and 1-35 area.
That money spent on police overtime for a new walking beat is long gone. But the partnership with the community continues with student forums, like the one at Guerrero Elementary.
Mariya Foree, a fourth grader at Austin Montessori, told the group that "... we need speed bumps and sidewalks."
Officer Kianes said children are the fastest growing demographic in the Rundberg area, which makes their voices that much more important.
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