Chacon highlights the priorities of the Safer Sixth Street plan

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Monday January 10, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The Austin Police Chief has highlighted a handful of action steps as the most important things the police department can do to improve safety in the Sixth Street entertainment district following a shooting mass summer campaign that killed an out-of-state tourist.

Late last month, Police Chief Joseph Chacon released a memo updating city council and staff on the progress of the 13 measures recommended by council in a July resolution. These measures included improving lighting and pedestrian infrastructure, improving coordination between municipal departments related to neighborhood issues, and encouraging commerce and daytime events that are not primarily consumer oriented. alcohol in the many bars that line the street.

During a press briefing after the memo was released, Chacon said he saw the most potential measures such as creating a permanent location for emergency response teams, establishing a entertainment licensing system for nightlife businesses and improving barricades for the region.

Earlier updates to the councils and commissions had highlighted the early victories of the initiative known as Safer Sixth Street, including progress made in removing unregistered guns from the streets. In his recent comments, Chacon said he wanted to focus on the most “impactful” steps, but said the overall goal of improving the neighborhood will take time.

“We are not going to have an overnight change happening in the region. Even as we continue to put our security measures in place, we continue to see things happen in our entertainment district on weekends, ”he said. “We need to keep evolving and really looking at the metrics available to us from that holistic perspective.”

Looking to change the character of the entertainment district by abandoning the emphasis on alcohol-fueled nightlife, Chacon said improving safety is a key consideration to encourage activities such as public markets. and other business activities.

“It’s a big demand, but when we talk about safety it’s important that people can count on the police service, and we will rise to the challenge. The characteristics of the street and the atmosphere you speak of have certainly been built up over the years, and that will change. It will take some time for this change to happen, but I am concerned about making people feel safe.

The July Council resolution is the latest in at least many attempts in the past two decades to improve the safety and character of Sixth Street. One of the most recent initiatives came in 2014, when a plan to make infrastructure improvements, including wider festival-style sidewalks across the region, garnered a lot of interest from property owners. businesses and real estate in the area.

This overhaul plan was even considered for the financing of city bonds, but it lost momentum following the change in representation of the districts on the council, which brought a number of new elected officials at a time. .

Molly Alexander, executive director of the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, has been involved in analysis and improvement efforts related to Sixth Street since 2003, and said the city has largely overlooked the area which has become an international calling card for Austin.

“The first question we must ask ourselves is: how do we manage the street today and what needs to change? If you were doing a marathon or a special event you would be obligated, as an event producer, to provide a lot of things like toilets, access to emergency vehicles, barricades, security… we close the street every weekend and don’t expect the same things from the city that we expect from private event producers, and it’s like a party and a special event every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, ”he said. she declared.

“As they reflect on how they holistically monitor and manage the street as an important part of the nighttime economy, look at what else is needed. Part of that is thinking about how you coordinate your security and link them to the police while also handling parking, Uber and everything, and the city is looking at that. “

Photo made available via a Creative Commons license.

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