AUSTIN (KXAN) — After four people were killed in three days, the Austin Police Department is still searching for suspects in a downtown stabbing and a shooting in north Austin.

One man was arrested and charged with capital murder in a third incident — a double homicide off West Anderson Lane.

“Unfortunately, this has been a rather violent weekend here in Austin that has resulted in multiple homicides having occurred over the weekend,” Michael Bullock with APD said in a briefing with the media early Monday.

On this day in 2021, Austin Police had reported three homicides.

KXAN spoke with Councilmember Kathie Tovo, who represents City Council District 9, including downtown. She said the violence emphasizes the need to move forward on the Safer Sixth Street Initiative.

City staff has offered a list of potential programs and recommendations, with a goal of bringing “a wider demographic to the Sixth Street District and begin to help change the character of the street.” According to city documents, recommendations include a potential pilot program that would allow some businesses to use designated spaces on the sidewalk, parking lanes and part of the street for seating and dining, live music or art, according to city documents. Another would create a required entertainment permit for businesses who operate late into the night.

“The time is now to move forward with those changes,” said Tovo.

She emphasized some recommendations are already being implemented, such as increased or updated lighting and a program to work with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to crack down on underage drinking.

Last week, the entertainment services manager of the Development Services Department, Brian Block, presented to the city’s Downtown Commission with updates on the initiative.

He also reminded them their main focus is improving safety.

“This is not a redevelopment activity or a zoning initiative or an infrastructure project,” he said

Some of the recommendations need approval from city council, and Tovo said she hopes to get some of the efforts onto their agenda for a vote by early or mid-February.

When KXAN asked her about concerns regarding police staffing shortages, Tovo said, “We certainly need to support a strong police presence on Sixth Street, as well as other areas across the city. It is my understanding that most of the time, if not all the time, Sixth Street is staffed at 100%, if not more, depending on what is going on that weekend.” 

Kenneth Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, told the Public Safety Commission Monday night he believes the department “is not meeting their minimum staffing 90% of the time” and estimated there were roughly 200 available positions within the department.

He discussed the new cadet class, set to graduate on Friday. It’s the first cadet class to graduate after a year hiatus, while the training and curriculum was evaluated under the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative. Casaday told the commission while around 100 cadets entered the new police training academy, less than 70 would complete it. He said many of them won’t finish because of illness.

As the president of the police union, Casaday also updated the commission on upcoming labor negotiations between it and the city.