Thursday September 15th, 2022 by Nina Hernandez
At its special meeting called Tuesday, the Public Safety Commission voted unanimously to send one of its members to a Parks and Recreation Commission task force studying crime in city parks and responsible for making recommendations to the city council.
The call from the parks board is preceded by a note PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley sent members in late May to answer questions about park crime and data tracking. ODA a a new public portal which specifically collects data on crimes reported within 50 feet of a park address.
Property crime is the most reported type of crime in Austin parks. According to the memo, in the last fiscal year, 1,092 property crimes were reported on or within 50 feet of a park. As of the memo’s writing in May, 619 property crimes had been reported. The report also notes that Zilker Metropolitan Park leads all parks in property crime, with Mount Bonnell coming in second.
McNeeley wrote in the memo that the APD is responsible for law enforcement in the parks, especially since “in 2020, the APD disbanded the Parks Police Unit and transferred all park-specific officers to general patrol to meet the needs of city-wide officers”.
At the June 27 parks board meeting, chair Laura Cottam Sajbel referenced the memo, as well as a May board presentation. working group dogs off leash. The group was created after complaints of unleashed dogs chasing strollers and people, causing bicycle accidents and fights with other dogs. There are also reports of park rangers replacing the old park police unit facing aggressive resistance when trying to enforce leash laws and other laws.
“I think we’ve heard from people who continue to face issues in parks, whether it’s off-leash dogs, vandalism, dangerous behavior, lots of theft,” said Dawn Lewis, member of the board of directors, who was chosen to chair the parks. council working group. “I think it’s incumbent on us to do everything we can to make sure our parks are safe and welcoming.”
The APD Portal is updated monthly and displays park-specific crime data. Data can be filtered by fleet or by offense type.
The Public Safety Commission voted unanimously to approve a motion appointing Kathleen Hausenfluck, Mayor Steve Adler’s appointee to the commission, to the group. The motion passed after Hausenfluck volunteered and no other commissioners expressed interest in joining the task force. Commissioner Nelly Paulina Ramirez thanked Hausenfluck for her volunteerism and said she had met with members of the parks board to discuss the matter and would speak with Hausenfluck to update her.
Photo made available via a Creative Commons License.
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