Pub­lic safety:

Po­lice de­tail 3-year plan to spend grant to help trou­bled neigh­bor­hood.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Dave Har­mon dhar­mon@states­

With $1 mil­lion grant, po­lice will try to re­vi­tal­ize Rund­berg Lane area within three years.

Can a mil­lion dol­lars re­duce crime and boost the qual­ity of life in a trou­bled North Austin neigh­bor­hood? Austin po­lice and a group of so­ci­ol­o­gists, work­ing with as many res­i­dents as they can re­cruit for the cause, have three years to find out.

More than 100 peo­ple gath­ered at Lanier High School on Tues­day night to hear how po­lice plan to spend a $1 mil­lion fed­eral grant aimed at im­prov­ing the crime-plagued Rund­berg Drive area.

Austin was one of seven cities na­tion­wide to re­ceive the three-year U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment grants, which are aimed at re­vi­tal­iz­ing neigh­bor­hoods.

Dubbed Re­store Rund­berg, the plan will fo­cus on a 6-square-mile area where less than 5 per­cent of Austin’s pop­u­la­tion sees 11 per­cent of the city’s vi­o­lent crime and 7 per­cent of its prop­erty crime, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. Un­em­ploy­ment is as high as 14 per­cent in some spots, and 95 per­cent of the area’s stu­dents are con­sid­ered eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged, po­lice said.

Most of the money will be spent on greater po­lice pres­ence, by paying of­fi­cers over­time, and ex­tra at­ten­tion from city code en­force­ment of­fi­cers, and on re­search by Univer­sity of Texas so­ci­ol­o­gists, who plan to spend the next year sur­vey­ing res­i­dents and hold­ing neigh­bor­hood meet­ings to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the peo­ple and the prob­lems.

“The Rund­berg area has a huge op­por­tu­nity for re­vi­tal­iza­tion,” said po­lice Cmdr. Mark Span­gler, who will be the project man­ager for the grant. “We need new, out­side-of-the­box think­ing for sig­nif­i­cant (crime) re­duc­tions.”

Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo kicked off Tues­day’s meet­ing with an in­for­mal sur­vey, ask­ing how many peo­ple feel that life is slowly and steadily im­prov­ing in their neigh­bor­hood. Only a scat­ter­ing of hands went up in the crowd.

Acevedo then urged the res­i­dents to put their en­ergy into help­ing po­lice and the UT re­searchers cre­ate a plan to make things bet­ter.

“This is your plan, this is your neigh­bor­hood, this is your com­mu­nity,” he said. “Too of­ten when we do th­ese things, we have mo­men­tum for a time, then ... we slip back­ward.”

Sit­ting at long cafe­te­ria

ta­bles, res­i­dents filled out in­dex cards, list­ing the most sig­nif­i­cant crime prob­lems in their neigh­bor­hood: Open-air drug deal­ing. Pros­ti­tutes roam­ing the streets. Unat­tended kids get­ting into trou­ble.

At one ta­ble, a woman com­pared notes with the peo­ple sit­ting next to her. “When I was do­ing getout-the-vote, there was one woman I talked to who was robbed twice,” she told her ta­ble mates.

Tammy Wat­son, a 47year-old reg­is­tered nurse who re­cently moved to the area, said she’s hope­ful the money will do some good. Peo­ple in the area need jobs, ad­dicts need help kick­ing their habit, kids need to feel they can have a bright fu­ture, she said.

“I’m hop­ing that (Re­store Rund­berg) is kind of an in­fec­tious thing, that once one per­son starts feel­ing pos­i­tive, it will spread to other peo­ple,” Wat­son said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.