AUSTIN (KXAN) — As event organizers set the stage(s) for Austin City Limits Music Festival’s kick-off this weekend, KXAN looked into safety planning for large events like ACL as violent crimes continue rising in the area.
The City of Austin requires organizers to provide a detailed security plan. Large events are often encouraged to work with licensed private security companies to come up with and manage those plans.
Safety planning must analyze potential problems or concerns and how the event and those providing security would react in those circumstances.
Once an organizer submits the safety plan, it must be approved by the Austin Police Department.
According to the city’s website, “The Austin Police Department will review your application and has final authority to require a minimum number of police officers, licensed private security guards, and volunteers to staff your proposed event. The Austin Police Department also has the authority to adjust the scale and certain aspects of your event in order to ensure it is safe and secure.”
According to the city, if APD chooses to add additional staffing for security, the city will bill the organizer for that expense.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says with officer shortages, the department has barely been able to cover the overtime shifts needed for the festival this year. However, he says there will be enough officers to cover the overtime positions required for the event, on top of regular patrols throughout the city.
Casaday says he worries if attrition continues at the same rate that by next year, however, there won’t be enough APD officers willing to provide overtime for the 2022 ACL Fest.
This summer, the city of Austin surpassed the total number of homicides that were logged in the entire year of 2020. KXAN’s keeping track of homicides and areas they’re happening.
Private security company owner Hunter Burkey says he’s seen an increase in the volume of security personnel events that are hiring this year.
“Every event that we do on an annual basis, the staffing has gone up,” he said, in comparison to events in 2019.
Burkey believes contributing factors include the rise and crime and concerns over how some people might react to COVID-related rules.
Burkey says there will be a mix of armed and unarmed private security guards throughout Zilker Park during the festival.
His team specifically is providing unarmed personnel inside the park and armed personnel for some of the musical talent and at venues outside of Zilker during the festival.
His guards and others monitoring the event are licensed by the state after undergoing background checks and meeting training requirements.
“For the most part, you know, security, we’re not supposed to be the ones that are, you know, tackling people and detaining them and this and that,” Burkey said. “But we are the first ones to observe and report and make sure nothing’s going on and certain people don’t have access.”
Burkey says guards often have a direct line of contact with police for a quick response if needed. He says just their presence, however, helps keep order.
“That visual deterrent of having security on site is huge,” Burkey said.