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Police, City leaders say they're not reopening Sixth Street to traffic on weekends

Leaders said in a City memo Monday they would not reopen Sixth Street to traffic on the weekends due to the high volume of pedestrians and narrow sidewalks.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin police and City leaders said they will not reopen Sixth Street to traffic on the weekends, according to a City memo released Monday. 

Earlier this year, the City came up with a strategy aimed at making Downtown Austin safer following an uptick in crime. In a resolution passed by council in July, they explained that complex factors have led to escalating incidents of gun violence and illegal acts on Sixth Street, so policy solutions to address this issue must be multi-faceted.

In the City memo released on Monday, the APD and City of Austin leaders said they would not reopen Sixth Street to traffic because there are too many people and the sidewalks are not big enough to handle the foot traffic. 

One key part of this plan is to have an established staging area for police, EMS and fire staff on weekend nights on Sixth Street. This would allow them to respond quickly to any emergencies or needs. 

Other action items mentioned in the memo included adding more lighting and allowing businesses to utilize parts of the sidewalks and streets. They say if restaurants and bars create seating out front it will allow for more diverse use and will keep people from gathering in front of businesses. Leaders said in the memo that they have identified spots where lightning could be improved, such as alleys, and plan to conduct another study to identify other areas. They hope that business owners will put in their own lighting in alleys to help the problem. 

On Tuesday, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the department would work closely with downtown businesses as part of the safety initiative.

"There's no way that the City is going to be able to do all of these things by themselves," said Chacon. "We really need the cooperation from our business community and the downtown businesses." 

Some business owners tell KVUE happy changes are being made, but say more still needs to be done to make people feel safe and to help businesses in the area. Chacon said Austin has a very strong alliance of businesses downtown that frequently work with APD and the City.

"If we're asking them to spend money to put in new lighting or put in new seating or to do these different things, they're going to be constrained right now by their own budgets," said Chacon. "We're working with them to see how we can implement these different things."

The City also plans to launch pilot programs intended to allow businesses to expand on certain nights. 

They also want to have entertainment venues that are open after midnight get a certain type of annual permit that will require staff at those venues to go through different safety trainings. 

To read responses from all 13 action items in the Dec. 27 memo, click here.

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