Austin sees increase in violent crimes during SXSW

Security and safety during SXSW 2016. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the music plays in downtown Austin for South by Southwest, police are patrolling in the name of safety.

A KXAN analysis of monthly police records shows March of last year saw a roughly 50 percent increase in violent crimes and property crime cases downtown compared to the monthly average for 2015. That includes nearly 290 cases of theft downtown and 19 aggravated assaults.

However, the same trend did not appear citywide. In fact, other months saw higher levels of property and violent crimes than March.

“Generally we’re very aware of what’s going on around us. We have to keep ourselves safe,” said Zach Yanez, a musician in the band Interrobang who was performing on Sixth Street Wednesday.

So far this year, a police spokesperson said the festival was going fairly smoothly, with nothing unusual to report. That does not mean the week has been incident-free. For example, police records show an officer arrested a man this week for unlawfully carrying a loaded handgun on the 200 block of E. Sixth Street. The documents state a bar employee accused the man of pulling the gun on him.

“I don’t think the festival is really bringing any more crime per capita,” said Louk Cox, another musician.

Cox says he believes while there may be more cases of crime, South by Southwest also increases the number of visitors, which could lower the rate of crime if added to population totals.

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