AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dozens of downtown bar and restaurant workers spoke face-to-face with the Austin police chief Tuesday, sharing ideas about how to make downtown safer.
As he’s said time and time again, Police Chief Art Acevedo said his department is spread thin. He started the meeting by saying they could use more officers patrolling the downtown entertainment district from midnight to 3 a.m.
Among the crowd of about 100 or so, several downtown workers asked questions and expressed concerns.
One woman said downtown workers don’t have safe places to park, and it’s dangerous walking to cars after hours or feeding meters during shifts.
Other workers said they see police concentrated on some blocks, but other areas are bare. Acevedo says officers shouldn’t be congregating in groups of four or five, and they will work to get them more spread out.
Acevedo said getting the conversation started amongst downtown employees and police is key to improving safety in the area.
“Part of the solution and part of doing things even better is people calling us when they see emerging threats,” Acevedo said. “Because if somebody’s not reporting crime, and we’re not aware of it — this truly is our eyes and ears and we look forward to working with them to keep our entertainment district safe.”
Acevedo says they’ll look to pull officers from other areas of town for peak hours downtown.
In his closing remarks, he told the crowd to let city leaders know that Austin need more officers.
The meeting was held after a pair of incidents had people fearing downtown was becoming less safe. On Sunday, one person was arrested after shooting two people on Sixth Street near Red River.
And a brawl between two groups of people a few weeks earlier on Sixth Street, just east of Interstate 35, gained national attention. The incident was caught on video and then posted online.
The fight helped prompt Operation Safe Passage, which runs on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The initiative places Austin police officers strategically around the downtown entertainment district to make sure people can get out of the area safely.