City council member weighs in on I-35 rock-throwing cases

The aftermath of the rock throwing incident Courtesy: Andrew Owen, Jr.
The aftermath of the rock throwing incident on Oct. 10, 2015. (Courtesy: Andrezw Owen, Jr.)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A police search to find those responsible for yet another rock throwing incident on I-35 continues tonight, as patience runs thin for previous victims.

“It’s just frustrating because, why are people still doing this?” Lane Peleschak told KXAN Monday night.

Lane says it was back in June, when she was heading home from downtown, that a rock flew through her windshield. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt. But others in similar situations have been.

KXAN’s City Hall reporter Kylie McGivern took concerns to city council, to learn what’s being done to protect your safety on the road.
The majority of the rock-throwing cases happened within Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo’s district, District 9. KXAN wanted to know if there’s anything she and her fellow council members can do to help the Austin Police Department.

Already this year, we’ve seen 12 reported cases of rocks being thrown off overpasses onto cars on the interstate below, with the latest incident happening just this week. Dating back to last year, rocks have hit dozens of cars on I-35, injuring several drivers. One of them was Kenneth Johnson.

A rock smashed through Kenneth’s window the summer of 2014, hitting his throat and breaking his jaw. Kenneth later suffered a stroke. His recovery continues today. A family member says he still has trouble talking, but can walk again.

KXAN asked Mayor Pro Tem Tovo about the possibility of “HALO” cameras being installed on I-35 in these problem areas, to provide a bird’s eye view and help police catch those responsible.

“Those are some expensive cameras and it would require some pretty careful discussion here at the City Council about whether to allocate those resources, but my HOPE is that the police department can look at whether some of those cameras could be relocated for a period of time until they catch the individual responsible,” Tovo said.

Right now, there are 41 HALO cameras along Rundberg Lane in north Austin, as well as downtown.

The last time the city council approved money for more cameras, the price tag was about $75,000 per camera.

“It’s a real concern and definitely I know the police department is taking it seriously, as are we on council. At this point we haven’t been asked to allocate any more resources, but I know the police department is responding very seriously to this,” Tovo said.

KXAN reached out to APD to learn more about potentially moving some of the Halo cameras currently in place. At this time, APD has only told us it’s increasing patrols in the area.

APD is also asking anyone who may be a victim of a rock-throwing incident to call 911 immediately after it happens. Police also ask that you do not handle any evidence, so investigators can process it successfully.

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