AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Chief Brian Manley announced Friday a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that enabled APD to launch an initiative called Riverside Togetherness.
It’s aimed at creating a safer environment in the Riverside area of southeast Austin.
Police Chief Brian Manley said that neighborhood makes up less than one percent of Austin in size, but about 10 percent of rapes and robberies happen there.
According to Manley, “Eight percent of the aggravated rapes that have occurred in [Austin] have occured in this area. [And] nine percent of the aggravated robberies with deadly weapon, along with eight percent of robberies with assault.”
Council Member Pio Renteria who represents the neighborhood said, “There is prostitution going on. There’s drug dealing going on, and we must put a stop to that.”
APD said, the four main goals of the project are to increase trust between residents and law enforcement, reduce violent crime, improve community safety and revitalize the neighborhood.
Steve Larson with a nonprofit called Our House told KXAN he’s hoping the initiative will include working with teens as well.
He said he helps to lead after school programs at Travis High School.
“I worry about it every afternoon,” he said. “They’re going home to an empty apartment, so yes, I worry what happens when they get there. When young people are bored, they sometimes do things that are border line.”
He said community policing could play a significant role in teens’ lives. “We can mix them with officers, so that the officers can be on their basketball team. They could be the coach. They could cook the meal before. They can do things to get to know police officers in a non-confontational way,” Larson said.
Chief Manley said specific strategies have not been developed yet.
He explained, the first year of the initiative will focus on data collection and analysis. That will help guide the process they’ll go through to come up with new and innovative policing strategies.
More information can be found on the Riverside Togetherness Project website.