AUSTIN (KXAN) — With safety concerns mounting about rising crime at city parks, KXAN learned more about what’s going on behind-the-scenes to address the issue.

“As Austin continues to get bigger and bigger, we want to make sure we can do what we can to keep our parks safe and welcoming,” said Debra Lewis, who’s on the Parks and Recreation Board.

She said a working group was launched in June to address security, but due to summertime scheduling conflicts, the group could only meet once. They’ll meet for a second time next week, this time with reinforcements: police officers and a representative from the Public Safety Commission.

“If we’re having issues with criminal behavior, we feel it’s important to try to address those so it doesn’t get to a point where people don’t feel safe and welcome in their parks,” said Lewis.

According to the Austin Police Department Crime Dashboard for the Parks and Recreation Department, 1,785 crimes were reported at parks in 2021. So far, 2,422 crimes have already been reported in 2022.

Just last month, there were two homicides at City parks. One was near Barton Springs Pool, and the other was at Auditorium Shores.

The Austin Police Department used to have dedicated park patrols, but that unit disbanded last year as the department faced staffing issues.

According to the Parks and Recreation Department, the City contracted with a private company in June to have security guards patrol Krieg Fields on busy nights.

That contract, however, expires next week. The Parks and Recreation Department said the City will renew it if officials decide it’s necessary.

Some park-goers say they’d rather see consistent patrols as the norm rather than the exception.

“Kind of comforting if a cop drives by every 15 minutes or something,” said Rana Coons.

The City has recently added additional lighting at the following parks as part of a project that launched in 2017:

  • Edward Rendon Sr Metropolitan Park at Festival Beach
  • Givens District Park
  • Kendra Page Neighborhood Park
  • Dove Springs District Park
  • Covert Park at Mount Bonnell
  • Ponciana Neighborhood Park
  • Stoney Ridge Neighborhood Park
  • Onion Creek Soccer Complex