Efforts underway to improve safety on Sixth Street

Efforts are underway to improve one of Austin’s most popular nightlife districts.

City councilmembers recently refocused efforts to improve safety measures on Sixth Street after a June shooting left one dead and 14 injured. An update on that progress was provided by the city on Tuesday.

"It was really clear that we needed to make changes as a city," said Councilmember Kathie Tovo, who sponsored the resolution for the Safer 6th Street Initiative. "We still have a tremendous amount to do to really follow up on all of those issues to create a safer Sixth Street, but these are some good first steps."

Some of those first steps include lighting improvements in the area and exploring options for outside cafe seating and other "pop up" efforts that would allow for wider walkways and potentially closing the street to pedestrians.

Beyond just safety, the goal is to better utilize the area and bring in a more diverse demographic.

"Everything from lighting to sidewalks to just how people move throughout the space," said Brian Block, entertainment services manager with the City of Austin.

Another strategy that has been implemented is bringing together multiple city departments - and Sixth Street business owners - to collaborate as part of a more holistic approach to public safety.

"Of course, you look at policing and law enforcement around safety and that continues to happen, but in addition, we’re taking a more comprehensive perspective of planning and management for the district because that impacts safety as well," said Block.

When it comes to the policing aspect, there are a few strategies being considered. One plan that is in the works is having a permanent, staging area that APD, AFD and ATCEMS can share during weekends.

"In case there is an active attack on Sixth Street we can better hook up, meet up and provide the assistance and the medical treatment and extractions in a more expeditious manner," said APD Asst. Chief Jerry Bauzon.

Asst. Chief Bauzon said they’re looking at a few locations that include the 600 block of Neches and the 600 block of Trinity.

Another goal is to work more closely with bar owners to help build on and streamline safety protocols and training they already have in place. "Just working together as a team I think will help us as a community make Sixth Street a safer area to be," said Asst. Chief Bauzon.

The "working as a team" mentality is even going beyond Austin. City leaders are also engaging with other large cities - including Seattle, Las Vegas and Sydney, Australia - to discuss how they manage their entertainment districts.

City councilmembers are expected to receive another update on progress at the end of October.

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