Asia, a Great Dane owned by Southwest Austin residents Mary and Christina Green helped police catch intruders on two occasions.
by Travis Atkins
AUSTIN – A cameo from a heroic canine highlighted the night at the Austin Police Department Region 4 Commander’s Forum, as residents filled the room while district representatives recapped 2014 crime numbers, discussed upcoming initiatives and recognized outstanding citizens (two and four-legged). The crowd then got one-on-one time with their representative.
Asia, a Great Dane owned by south Austin residents Mary and Christina Green helped the cops catch intruders on two occasions. First, burglars tried to break into their home while the Greens were sleeping. Asia was then let outside and chased after the suspects, who were on the roof. Police then came and arrested the suspects after a 911 call from Mary.
Ten days later, Asia spotted intruders trying to break into their neighbor’s house and started barking. The owners noticed the robbery taking place and once again called 911 with the burglars’ license plate information. The burglars were once again caught.
“This dog has enabled us to catch four suspects and we were able to clear no less than five burglaries that had taken place in her neighborhood,” Commander Nicholas Wright said.
Wright went over the recently compiled 2014 Austin crime statistics. Among noticeable stats were an 11 percent decrease from 2013 in property crime, 14 percent increase in robbery of business and 11 percent increase in auto thefts.
“Almost 50 percent of our auto thefts were taken with the key to the vehicle,” Wright said. “That tells me it started out as a burglary, but you left the keys in the car. ‘It’s cold, why walk when I could drive your car?’”
Black Friday was a bright spot for the police department in Southwest and South Austin. Over two days at Barton Creek Mall and South Park Meadows, only four offenses were reported, all of which were shoplifters inside the stores. No auto thefts or burglaries were reported.
Austin saw a nine percent increase in violent crime in 2014, but the increase was due to the FBI changing the definition of rape to include more physical sexual assaults. Going by the old metric, Austin had a 1 percent decrease, which would have been a 20-year low for the third year in a row.
In 2013, Austin was the second safest city of its size in the country in terms of violent crime. The 2014 comparative numbers have not yet been released by the FBI.
One such violent event happened in the Oak Hill area last September. During the early morning hours, Mark Siefken was jogging on a trail on the Archstone Greenbelt off Monterrey Oaks Blvd. when two Caucasian men came up and asked for money. He had no money and was subsequently stabbed in the stomach. Siefken was taken to the hospital where he would recover after undergoing surgery.
Oak Hill representative, Officer Jeffrey Binder, is confident this was an isolated incident.
“It was a really bizarre case,” Binder said. “We are not 100 percent certain as to why that happened. First off, the guy was out there at like three or four in the morning. That’s not a good time to be out on the trail. That type of area is not generally an area where you are going to have a lot of people. That may have just been a fluke. Going over some of the facts, he didn’t describe the guys as transient looking or smelling, so that, to an extent is a good indicator to the fact that it wasn’t somebody who was in that area on a routine basis looking to victimize somebody. It could have been just a fluke.”
Binder then recapped other issues he has seen in Oak Hill recently. He said the department has been getting a lot of complaints on red light running at William Cannon and 290 since the construction started.
“With all of that changing and everything and the intersection being expanded back and forth, you have a lot of people that aren’t paying attention to the lights and what’s going on there,” Binder said. “We have actually had motor units go out there and work that location to try and avoid any collisions.”
On the other hand, a potential benefit of the 290-William Cannon construction is less homeless issues popping up since they had to clear the area, Binder said.
Down the street at William Cannon and Escarpment, the City of Austin recently added a sign saying “Right Turn Only from 4-6 PM.” Binder said they’ve been receiving calls about motorists disobeying the sign.
“That sign is meant to keep traffic flowing on 290, so it doesn’t back up,” Binder said. “One of the problems is 4-6 PM is rush hour. Patrol guys who are working have very little time to go pay attention to that thing because they’re already out taking collisions. I’m going to be looking at getting more motorists involved.”
The homeless problem in Austin was a hot-button topic in the forum. The department has and will continue to partner with TXDOT for homeless camp cleanup events. Many take place under highways where trash accumulates.
“One of our goals for 2015 is to keep working on the homeless issue and working on it hard,” Sargent Chris Hallas said.
Additional 2015 initiatives include holding training classes for citizens. These would include women’s safety, senior safety and a class on measures the public can take to protect their home from invasion.
Jonathan Babiak from the Equal Employment Fair Housing Office also gave a presentation. The office receives and investigates complaints of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations and regulates interaction between employers and employees along with landlords and tenants. Information can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.