AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin police say they're well below the mark when it comes to numbers of officers in the department. As downtown is transforming for SXSW, police are staging their plans for patrol, with a staff already spread thin.
Many Austinites out and about Wednesday said safety in the downtown area isn't a big concern.
"I only have experiences in South Austin," Amanda Witucki said, "which I don't think is totally safe, just from personal experience with car theft and stuff like that. Downtown, I think, has been relatively fine."
Police will tell you to not take that sense of security for granted. APD has 1,646 officers, which is short of what would be a full staff. That number would be 1,700 officers.
According to an external study, the department needs to add more than 250 officers by 2017 to keep up with population growth. Chief Art Acevedo said Wednesday he'd like to see more like 500 additional officers by then.
"Here's my concern: as we continue to be the fastest growing city, we end up having more and more special events like SXSW, which I love and has a great vibe," Acevedo said. "But now it's going to how many days? Nine days. ACL is now going to two weekends."
More bigger, longer events means more police need to be on the streets.
"I don't really notice them out that much," said John Carter, who was downtown for SXSW events. "I mean, you see them if you're looking for them."
And that's not good enough for APD. Acevedo says as Austin grows, the police force needs to grow along with it.
"We've got to change our mindset. If you look at the lack of staffing plus the permissive attitude, it's a combination that sooner or later in our lifetime, will cause us to see the degradation of the quality of life," Acevedo said, "and I don't want to see that happen."
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