APD District Rep. for Oak Hill Officer Josh Visi, talks about the upcoming Run With the Heros 5K event in September.
by Joanne Foote
“Citizen involvement is key to what we do,” said APD Commander Nick Wright. “The work of APD’s District Representatives is the root of all we do, and without that combination, we don’t function.”
Despite a threatening rainstorm, it was standing room only at the Quarterly Police Commander’s Forum, which was held on Thursday, July 17, at the Clinton Hunter police sub-station.
Wright is the newest commander for Region Four, which includes the Oak Hill area and most of South Austin, including most everything south of Lady Bird Lake. “The police department likes to keep us on our toes, so I am the newest commander at this substation,” joked Wright. “In my personal opinion, this is the most squared away, best area in the city. I’ve been with APD for close to 20 years, beginning as a patrol officer, and have since worked with almost every unit in the city, including Special Operations, such as SWAT and the Bomb Squad,” said Wright.
Crime trouble spots
Commander Wright presented the latest crime statistics, and indicated that APD’s Region Four, as a whole, is on a trend for the lowest crime year in the last five years. “Both violent crime and property crime are at 5-year lows,” said Wright. However, there are a few trouble spots in the Oak Hill and Southwest Austin areas.
Officer Jeffery Binder, who is Oak Hill District Representative, explained: “We have a group of people preying on those who go to workout facilities and also those who are dropping their children at daycares. Often, citizens will leave the personal items in the car, especially when just running in to drop off their child at daycare. Thieves are watching and quickly break into the cars and grab purses, or other personal items and are gone before the individual comes back to their car. The same is true for those going to the gym. They may take the time to hide their personal items in the car, but often they do it in the parking lot of the gym, where others might be watching,” he explained.
“The take-home message is to keep your personal items on you, and always lock your car, even when you just run in to drop a child off at school. If you must leave something in the car, hide your personal items out of sight before you arrive at the gym or school. Also, lock your car at night if you leave it in the driveway,” said Binder. “We are aware of the group that is doing it, and have learned they are from Florida. They are using rental cars, and through the car rental agencies, we have gathered some information and are now taking action to catch them,” he said.
Run with the Heroes
Officer Catherine Jones talked about the upcoming Run with the Heroes 5K Run/Walk honoring fallen heroes. “The walk takes place on Sunday, September 14, at 8:00 a.m. at South Park Meadows. This year, we will be honoring Lt. Clay Crabb, who was killed last October in an automobile collision on U.S. Highway 290, near Sawyer Ranch Road.
“Participants will be walking or running with members of APD, including those from the SWAT team, Bomb Squad and other departments. It is a day of community and enjoyment with friends and family, while honoring not only those who have fallen, but also our first responders who serve and protect our community every day,” said Jones.
Volunteers are needed to help the race run smoothly. If you are interested in participating as a runner or as a volunteer, please call 512-491-2927 or visit the website: www.sotx.org/rwth. Proceeds from the event will benefit Special Olympics.
Capital Area Crime Stoppers
Each quarter, special presentations are made highlighting a part of the police department. This time, the Capital Area Crime Stoppers division shared how they came into existence, and how tipsters are kept anonymous.
“Crime Stoppers was begun in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1976, by a detective who had a number of unsolved cases,” said Officer Paul Chavez, who is with the Tactical and Intelligence Division of APD.
“In 1979, local TV news station KVUE became a part of the program, airing local crime reenactments for hard-to-solve crimes on the news. The key to the program is keeping tipsters anonymous. In fact, our nationwide call center is in Canada and then the tip is shared with the appropriate local authorities. Rewards are offered for tips that lead to an arrest for any felony or violent crimes,” said Chavez.
“In 2013, the Capital Area Crime Stoppers received 1,400 tips, which resulted in 159 arrests, and over $147,000 in recovered stolen property. In addition, we paid out $64,000 to tipsters in reward money,” added Chavez. Now tips can be sent in via text message using these guidelines: text ‘Tip103 plus your tip’ to 274637. We also accept calls via the hotline: 512-472-TIPS. We can’t stress enough that the tips are completely anonymous and if a reward is due, we work through a local bank where the tipster can pick up their reward in cash, showing a unique code they receive. These tips are crucial to helping solve crimes,” he added.
According to their website, Crime Stoppers USA, The Crime Stoppers program has enjoyed great success with the information received, which has led to the arrest and indictment of those responsible for committing felony offenses, boasting an average conviction rate of approximately 95% on cases solved by a tip to the program.
Sergeant Chris Hallas reminded the community about the curfew in place for teens during the year. “In the summer, there is no daytime curfew for those under age 17. However, there is a nighttime curfew, which is as follows: Sunday-Thursday, 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and Friday-Saturday 12:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m.
“When school starts up again on August 25, the daytime curfew is 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. School-aged kids are typically supposed to be in school, although there may be some exceptions. If you see kids on the street or in neighborhoods during those hours, and you suspect they are of school age, please call 911. Juveniles are often responsible for much of the burglary-type crime that happens during those hours, and it is better to report suspicious activity to be on the safe side.”
National Night Out
Although it is still a few months away, it’s not too soon for neighborhood groups to register for National Night Out, which is October 7. This is a time when residents in neighborhoods throughout Austin and across the nation are asked to turn on their porch lights, and spend the evening outside with their neighbors, police officers, firefighters and EMS paramedics. Events such as cookouts, block parties and neighborhood walks will all occur simultaneously throughout the city and nationwide.
This year’s National Night Out Kick-Off Event will take place at Mueller Airport Development, lakeside, on October 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We have been listening to you and moved the kickoff to a few days before the official National Night Out, so that your community can attend,” said Hallas. If you would like to register your neighborhood or group, please go the APD website: http://austintexas.gov/nno, and register by September 13. Registration does not guarantee that an officer will drop by, but it will put you on the list for a possible visit as well as let the department know how many neighborhoods are participating.
Train the Trainer
Citizens can learn crime prevention techniques and how to start a neighborhood watch program by participating in APD’s “Train the Trainer” courses.
“’Train the Trainer’ meetings take place at the substation on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. We work on a rotating schedule, teaching the three courses over a three-month period and then start the process over again. Even if you can only make one in the series, please come. You can always pick up the next session at another time,” said Hallas. The next series begins August 5, with the second session on September 2. The October date is pending for the third session since it conflicts with National Night Out.
Each quarter, APD holds Commander Forum meetings in the different sectors of Austin, to which anyone is invited to attend, at the same location, at 404 Ralph Ablanedo Drive. To learn more about current crime in your area, reports are available at this link: http://austintexas.gov/department/apd-reports. To learn more about what district representative (DR) covers neighborhoods in South Austin and the Oak Hill area, http://austintexas.gov/page/district-representatives-region-4. The main number is 512-874-8100. The District Representatives for most of the Oak Hill area are Senior Police Officer Jeffrey Binder and Officer Josh Visi.
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