AUSTIN (KXAN) — Undercover officers with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be inside Austin gas stations and liquor stores this weekend.
TABC executive director Bentley Nettles said agents will only patrol businesses if they ask them to. The operation is part of the “Cops in Shops” program, designed to catch underage violators and educate retail employees with TABC officer’s experience.
Governor Greg Abbott directed them to support DPS troopers in areas of recent stabbings involving suspects who are homeless.
“It’s nice to protect it. It’s also nice to protect customer that’s coming,” said Bob Woody, longtime downtown Austin business owner. Woody likes the idea of more officers stationed at routes to and from downtown to go along with existing police patrols on 6th street.
“We have walking beat down here. That walking beat doesn’t exist anywhere North of 6th street, anywhere south of 6th street. It just doesn’t exist,” said Woody.
Beginning Thursday, auditors with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will go to gas stations and liquor stores along I-35, around the University of Texas at Austin, and in downtown Austin to see if they want an undercover officer with them over the weekend.
“There’s a high number of people to come in and it is going to be more difficult for a retailer to keep eyes on every single person who comes in,” said Chris Porter, public information officer with the TABC.
The Governor directed TABC and DPS to increase patrols after two violent stabbings included people living on Austin streets.
“We wanted to get the operation underway as quickly as possible. Obviously, when we’re working with the Governor’s office, they want to see results,” said Porter.
The operation will include 36 officers from TABC’s Austin regional office.
“For the state to be more involved now. For the state to say, we’ve seen some issues, here’s what we’re going to do differently, to make it better,” said Woody.
So far most of the state help has come in the form of law enforcement and highway cleaning crews. Austin city leaders say they also need help with mental health and housing resources. TABC will evaluate this as a test weekend to see if officers will need to stay in the future.
Mayor of Austin Steve Adler and the Austin City Council have called on Governor Abbott and the state of Texas to do more when it comes to housing people who are experiencing homelessness. The state of California is close to dedicating $1.4 billion to the issue.