AUSTIN (KXAN) - As police in North Austin keep up the heat this weekend on prostitutes, drug dealers and gang members, low budget motel owners along a nearby strip of IH-35 are trying out a new, but low-tech tool. It red-flags potential troublemakers or criminals looking to rent an inexpensive room.
A simple printed list handed out to budget motel staff identifies several dozen people Austin officers have arrested in the recent past.
"If everybody wants to get together and say 'we don't want this in our neighborhood,' then it might push them out," said a motel clerk who did not want to be identified.
The list shows an individual's name, birth date and the number of times police have arrested them, as well as the number of arrests in the Rundberg Lane area. It does not list what charges were filed, if any.
Some on the list are shown as being arrested more than 40 times.
The list stems from a meeting police representatives in North Austin held this week with area motel managers along the Rundberg Lane corridor. Some said they agreed to talk about forming an association with the intent all motel workers would play by the same ‘refusal rules' to help push criminals out.
Some of these motels on the strip south of Rundberg Lane and north of Powell Lane advertise rooms for as little as $30 per night. It's a rate which can be attractive for prostitutes and drug dealers looking for a little privacy to conduct their transactions.
"It causes everything to go up, like the robberies," said a clerk working the desk at one motel who did not want to be identified.
She said because Austin is growing so rapidly, there is no concern about losing the majority of her business which is made up of construction workers in town for weeks, sometimes months at a time.
The clerk said she has already used the list of names police gave her several times and is not afraid of the angry outbursts from would-be customers she chooses to turn away. In a number of instances, she said she already knew the person's face from seeing them at local grocery stores. These were not 'out-of-towners' looking for a shower and bed for the night.
"I've been cussed out," she said. "They say they're going to do this, or do that. But I'm still here."
She admitted the prostitutes and drug dealers are the worst of the crimes, but said she has seen more police patrols since the three-year long Restore Rundberg project got underway in January.
In late 2012, Austin Police were awarded a $1 million Department of Justice grant to come up with solutions to help return this troubled neighborhood of 40,000 people to some sense of peace using information-based policing. It relies heavily on statistics.
11 percent of Austin's crime happens in this six square mile area. Part of the multi-phased program encourages residents to become involved directly.
In February, police towed away a number of illegally parked, junked or ‘nuisance' vehicles. The theory is that a well-maintained neighborhood may help stop further vandalism and the possible escalation to more serious crimes.
This weekend, officers will be out working what they call '100 percent enforcement'. It's the latest in what will be eight such weekend operations to smoke out criminal elements.
This push was set for Friday night until 3 a.m., and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday.
The motel clerk said operations this past winter have already chased some of the criminals out.
"Some just go and hide from Rundberg. Some just move up to Sam Rayburn (Drive)," she said. "So, as long as they keep hitting both areas at the same time, that's what it's going to take."
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Santa visited Austin early on Sunday, joining hundreds of motorcyclists for their annual Toy Run.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.