AUSTIN (KXAN) — The “Riverside Togetherness Grant” has led to multiple felony arrests in and around East Riverside Drive in southeast Austin. It was funded last year, but efforts are just recently ramping up.

The Austin Police Department secured funding for the grant more than a year ago, but programs were held up due to staffing shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative is two-fold, focusing both on community-police relationships as well as what police call “targeted enforcement” to curb crime. It covers the two-square mile part of town outlined in the map below.

Area map, courtesy of the Riverside Togetherness Project
Area map, courtesy of the Riverside Togetherness Project

“There’s always kind of cops going by,” said Oscar Rodriguez, who works in the neighborhood. “You’re kind of just like, ‘OK, there’s another one.'”

Mark Galvez, who was out and about Friday evening with his grandsons, said he’s supportive of the grant.

“That would be nice, really, really nice,” he said. But he said he still wants to see more patrols.

His grandson Mitchell added, “if there were more police here, I feel like it would make the area more safer.”

According to an arrest affidavit, targeted enforcement led to the arrest of three men near Wickersham Lane. Investigators said they stole multiple vehicles and illegally possessed guns. In total, police said targeted enforcement has resulted in 12 felony arrests for crimes ranging from aggravated robbery to drug charges.

The police department’s goal is also to “provide officers to work closely with the community for the outreach and trust-building areas of the grant,” according to APD. The department is currently working to navigate its staffing shortages to put that into action. The hope is to implement this plan in early 2022.

Some specifics of the community outreach portion of the initiative include training for law enforcement and community members and enlisting community ambassadors to explore targeted outreach opportunities.