Austin’s new Police Commander Barbara West and other law enforcement officers for the 15th District rolled out a plan earlier this week to monitor five crime hot spots with the help of community members.
The police district determines hot spots in the community based on the number of 911 calls, arrests, homicides and other acts of public violence in a given square or linear block.
In these determined spots, if people are loitering on the corner, officers can tell them to leave. If the loiterers return, they can be arrested, Officer Al Townsend said Tuesday at a meeting of the district’s faith-based and block club leaders.
“We try to put up hot spots to reduce public violence as a whole,” Officer Tonya Collins told the group of about 40 residents and block club leaders.
Collins said the five hot spots are located along Washington Boulevard from Long Street to Central Avenue; Adams Street from Laramie Avenue to Long Street; and Monroe Street from Long Street to Central Avenue.
Also included is the square block of Lamon Avenue on the east; Lavergne Avenue on the west; West End Avenue on the south; and Maypole Avenue on the north.
The final square block is Lamon Avenue on the east; Lavergne Avenue on the west; Iowa Street on the south; and Augusta Boulevard on the north, which is an area of most concern, Collins said.
“That’s a big problem for us because there’s a school right there,” she said.
These hot spots are active until Sept. 30. After that date, new spots will be determined.
Townsend called on those at Tuesday’s meeting tto help take back these hot spots as part of the 100 Blocks, 100 Churches initiative.
Every Wednesday evening in June, the group – made up of police, church organizations and block club leaders – plans to take back the hot spots.
“If we go big in numbers on these particular spots where there are problems, I think our message will get across a little better,” Collins said.
Townsend said for the action to be effective, there needs to be at least 200 to 300 people picketing each hot spot.
“We need a lot of people,” he said. “We don’t want to be out there with four or five people, because it’s not making a difference.”
This is the year to make an impact in the community, Townsend said.
“We’re going to look forward to what we can do,” he said. “We have a new mayor, a new superintendent, a new commander. We’re going to start something this summer.”
West, Austin’s new commander, is replacing Commander Walter Green, who recently transferred to Chicago’s Central Detective Division. He served for about four years as the 15th District commander.
West is an Austin native and previously worked as a beat office in the district, among other assignments, she said at the meeting.
“I worked the 15th many years ago as a rookie, so I’m back home,” she said.
“I’m back to serve.”
Charles Dehart, community activist and block club president of the 700 and 600 blocks of North Central Avenue and North Pine Street, said Green’s new assignment “has to be for the better,” and he’s leaving on a “positive note”
“I want to wish him well,” Dehart said in remarks before the meeting. “I appreciate the service that he gave us, especially over in our area, because we had a really tough area.”
Dehart said improving his blocks was “quite challenging.”
“Certainly, without (Green’s) help and support, we couldn’t get it to where it is now,” he said.
West said Austin has always been a “strong place to live and to work,” and block clubs play a key role in the community.
“It’s my belief that if the community partnership with the police department and the partnerships with the other organizations – faith based – we can pretty much do anything we want to do in the 15th District.”
Austin’s next block club and faith-based organization planning meeting is scheduled for April 10. For more information on how to participate, contact the 15th District Community Policing Office at 312-743-1495.