APD to hold no-refusal initiative during SXSW

For the first time, Austin police will hold a no refusal initiative aimed at the SXSW crowd. It starts Thursday night.

This was the scene at 10th and Red River last March shortly after police say Rashad Owens drove through multiple barriers and into a crowd of SXSW participants. Four people died and more than 20 were injured.

On Tuesday, survivor Mason Endres, was reunited with the nurses and doctors who cared for her.

"Everything that could've gone wrong did and everything that could've gone right did and that's why I'm still here," she said.

APD Commander Arthur Fortune says the DWI unit contemplated doing a no-refusal event for SXSW last year, but the budget was an issue.

"It is a 24-hour operation so when you do this you have to have more officers on, more staffing on," Fortune said.

This year officers are making the event a priority, especially after the multi-fatal crash.

"Having four people in one incident pass is obviously a tragedy," said Fortune. "Trying to curtail bad behavior of drivers is one thing the DWI unit, the highway enforcement unit and APD are trying to do so doing no-refusals is just one more step in the right direction."

Starting Thursday night at 9, officers will begin targeting suspected drunk drivers. A breath or blood test will be mandatory. If refused, officers will get a search warrant. The effort ends at 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 22nd.

In 2014, absent of a no-refusal, officers made 79 DWI arrests during the first week of SXSW and 66 during the 2nd week for a total of 145.

A no-refusal can average 20 arrests per night, so this could end up being an especially busy initiative for officers.

"We really want to have a safe community, we want people to come here and have a safe SXSW, we want the people who live here to have a safe community to live in and not be fearful of getting themselves or someone they know getting in these serious injury wrecks, collisions, or fatality," said Fortune.

APD will not be alone in this effort. Nine other agencies in Travis and Williamson County will also participate.

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