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Public safety leaders respond to concerns about violent crimes in Downtown Austin

The panel of local public safety leaders answered questions submitted by people who are concerned about the recent crime in Downtown Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Since the mass shooting on Sixth Street on June 12, we have seen more deadly shootings in Downtown Austin. The violence is a growing concern for many, and they want changes made.

A public safety panel was held Monday, where local leaders answered questions about what they're doing to try to keep people safe. The panel was hosted by City Council Member Kathie Tovo and the Downtown Austin Alliance. The public safety leaders who took part in the panel were District Attorney Jose Garza, Travis County Attorney Delia Garza, and Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon.

Interim Chief Chacon said the APD is trying to get illegal guns off the streets with its Violence Intervention Program.

"So far, we have made 59 arrests,” Chacon said. “In those 59 arrests, 165 different charges have been filed, and we have seized 109 illegally owned firearms."

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Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza also wants to keep guns out of the hands of potentially violent people.

"Our office has also adopted, for the first time ever, a firearm surrender protocol to ensure that people accused of crimes who may pose a threat to our community don't have access to firearms while their case is being adjudicated,” District Attorney Jose Garza said.

Both Interim Chief Chacon and County Attorney Delia Garza say they know business owners want more attention on low-level crimes as well, but expressed that there's only so much they can do.

“We are resource-strapped at this point and, at many times, lower level priority calls are holding for quite some time,” said Chacon. “And I think this has been a source of frustration."

Criminal trespassing is one of those lower-level offenses that many downtown business owners are dealing with. The public safety leaders said they take these calls seriously.

“We look at each case and we determine, is there a threat to public safety? Is the person a threat to themselves or somebody else?" asked Travis County Attorney Delia Garza.

Interim Chief Chacon said they're putting more officers downtown on weekend nights and are shifting other officers around so they can respond to violent calls as quickly as possible.

"So moving people back to patrol so that we can keep our response times to the most violent offenses, the shootings, the stabbings that we know do occur in the city,” said Chacon.

Every leader on the panel said we need to focus on the root of the problem, which they said with crimes like theft and harassment, is making sure people have their basic needs met.

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