Memo: Dedicated police presence didn’t see more crime in busy downtown Austin area

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A dedicated, 24-hour police presence at Seventh and Red River Streets didn’t see crime happening at a “greater rate” compared to other areas of downtown Austin, according to a memo to the city from Austin Chief of Police Brian Manley.

At the request of Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk, police assigned two 24-hour public safety officers in the the popular downtown area from Oct. 2019 through April 2020 “with the intent of restoring a sense of security and safety for residents, employees, tourists and music goers,” the memo stated. Police reported the officers monitored this intersection “consistently” for the seven months.

Due to the police department’s findings, Manley recommends that the City’s request for increased patrol in the area should be closed “with the understanding that downtown officers will continue to pay special attention to the Red River and 7th Street area.”

In the memo, Manley said officers are most effective when they are able to move freely throughout their assigned areas. Stationing officers at an intersection would limit their effectiveness, he added.

One businessman who leases property in the area told KXAN’s Jacqulyn Powell that there are still issues with people living on the streets near the Red River Cultural District, and he fears that once pandemic restrictions are lifted and bars are able to re-open, the area will once again have issues with drugs and other crimes.

In a statement, Downtown Austin Alliance President Dewitt Peart told KXAN, “The Downtown Austin Alliance monitors crime levels downtown, and our data from October 2019 to August 2020 shows that crime downtown diminished. Austin is consistently ranked as one of the safest large cities in America, and safety continues to be our highest priority as we work to preserve and enhance the vibrancy of downtown Austin through programs such as the Downtown Ambassadors that make downtown inviting and inclusive for everyone.”

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