AUSTIN (KXAN) — The biggest event of the year is upon us: South by Southwest. However, before the event kicks off officially, some are questioning if our police department is ready to handle it. Staffing is still an issue for the department and now 15 police officers on administrative leave after recent officer-involved shootings.
Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley says he has a plan to fill the gap and is ready for the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to spend the next several days in the city.
He says beefing up security is not an issue.
“What people will see when they come to this event will be very similar to what they have seen in years past and that is a large presence,” he said.
Manley says people living outside of downtown should not worry about this interfering with their area’s patrol.
“The neighborhoods around Austin will not see a decreased presence of on-duty resources because the officers that are working the spring festival keep it safe will be working it on an overtime basis,” he said.
It’s overtime the department says will cost them about $1.5 million. That’s the same it cost them last year.
And, it’s not just boots on the ground, Manley says they’re making sure to keep an eye on any threat via the department’s security cameras across the city.
“[Visitors] will see a lot of officers, but there’s also a lot that they won’t see that we will deploy if it was necessary.”
It’s a large event, with a large crowd, something Louisiana visitors Kristyna Jones and Larry Irvin are accustomed to.
“When you’re from a city like New Orleans where Mardi Gras happens crowds are just a natural,” Jones said.
Jones and Irvin say they’re just ready to have a good time and they’re not going to let anything stop them.
“You can’t live like that because you can’t enjoy moments if you’re always thinking about what’s the worst that can happen,” Irvin said.