New APD Region 4, South/Southwest Austin Commander Todd Gage presents a Citizen Hero award to local resident Daniele Gibbon. – photo by Travis Atkins
by Travis Atkins
The quarterly Austin Police Department Region 4, South/Southwest Austin Commander’s Forum held in late January gave citizens a chance to catch up with their district representative, learn about programs, recognize outstanding citizens and voice concerns. In addition, a new Region 4 Commander was introduced.
As of February 1st, Lieutenant Todd Gage is officially the new Region 4 Commander for South/Southwest Austin. He takes over for Jason Dusterhoft, who only held the position for three months, and then was reassigned to the downtown sector by Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Gage has been with APD for 20 years and has been on patrol for the last 10 years.
“I’m going to be the new commander…so that’s good and bad,” Gage said. “For one, you’re going to get a rookie commander, but hopefully I bring some new ideas and things of that nature and some energy to try to help with the problems that we all have here.”
During the forum, officers honored Southwest Austin citizens who went out of their way to help stop crime and/or assist citizens in their community.
Among the award recipients was Daniele Gibbon. She was driving down Brodie Lane when she noticed a woman was swerving in and out of her lane and even into oncoming traffic.
“What she found was an elderly female in the vehicle that was going into diabetic shock,” Sergeant Jamie Jobes said. “We were able to get EMS there and she basically saved this lady’s life.”
Gibbon said the woman went from Brodie Lane to 1626, headed east and then went up the frontage road on I-35.
“When she started to hit the top of the bridge, I basically ended up going and pulling up into the intersection to stop her,” Gibbon said.
The woman was awake, but Gibbon said it was obvious she was having a medical issue because she did not seem to know what was going on or where she was.
“I asked her if she knew her name,” Gibbon said. “She couldn’t even say yes or no, she had a blank stare. I just told her I was a nice person, I’m a mom of five, my husband’s a firefighter, I promise I’m a good person. I said ‘I’m going to reach into your car and turn your car off now.’ I put her car in park and took the keys.”
Police and paramedics then arrived on scene to attend to the elderly woman.
Officer Jeffrey Binder was introduced as the new Oak Hill District Representative. Binder took over on December 31, 2012 for Officer Richard Paez who retired. He has worked in the area for nearly 14 years.
Binder said there have not been any major crimes in Oak Hill since he took over.
“At this point in time, the transient issue, we’ve pretty much handled most of that,” Binder said. “Right now, you’ve seen a few burglaries out there. But burglaries are here and there. It’s an opportunistic thing.”
Binder said they have seen fewer transients at the ‘Y’, but it is still an ongoing issue because they tend to shift around then return after getting ticketed or going to jail.
The issue of door-to-door panhandling, where the solicitor is allegedly selling items such as magazines, was brought up by an audience member. No permit is currently required in order to sell door-to-door.
“If they are just knocking on the door trying to deceive you into buying magazines, no, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Jobes said. “I have fought that battle. I have tried to get the city ordinance rewritten to give us more leverage and I was told by our legal department that it has gone to the Supreme Court, and we cannot make the solicitation ordinance any more strict than it already is.”
Jobes said if they are being aggressive then by all means, give the police a call and they will go out and talk to them.
Property crime is the biggest crime issue in Southwest Austin, according to Jobes. Property crimes went up 5 percent in 2012 from 2011, but Jobes was content with that number, as 2011 had marked a six-year low.
In 2012, there were 528 incidents of burglary, robbery or theft in the 78749 zip code, compared with 223 in the 78735 zip code, and 25 for the 78736 zip code. A comprehensive breakdown of crimes and statistics can be found at the Austin Police Department’s website, austintexas.gov.
Bank robberies in South/Southwest Austin declined by 75 percent from 2011 to 2012, Gage pointed out.
Jobes announced the police department is cracking down on traffic violations, citing the fact that the number of tickets given the last two years has been on the decline.
“Chief has asked us to step up our efforts, because fatality collisions are going up and traffic tickets are going down,” Jobes said. “So we need to work on that. That’s one of our areas of concern that we need to focus on this year.”
Train the Trainer is an APD program where the department holds meetings to teach neighborhoods how to set up a neighborhood watch program. These meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of every month from February through September.
Jobes urged everyone in attendance to get to know their district representative because they are ‘your neighborhood cop.’
“In the old days we thought of them as the officer that you knew worked your area and you knew them by name, they knew the residents in their area; they knew the crime trends because it was their neighborhood and they were very familiar with what was going on in their neighborhood,” Jobes said. “That is the idea of the District Rep. program. We want you to have a face and a name that you recognize as your police officer.”
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