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New public safety center in northwest Austin hopes to help deter crime

A public safety community engagement center that opened in northwest Austin on Thursday aims to deter crime by allowing for a more visible law enforcement presence in the area, while also giving officers a place to take a break and write reports.

The center is a trailer parked in the lot at 10800 Pecan Park Blvd. Austin City Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly spearheaded the opening after hearing concerns about crime from her constituents in District 6, where the center is located.

“This will greatly improve (officers’) effectiveness and efficiency in serving and protecting our community,” Kelly said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. “It will provide a physical, visible presence, ensuring rapid responses to any security concerns in our district are handled. The center will help build closer relationships between the police department and residents of the broader community, fostering further trust and cooperation.”

Kelly noted that longer response times by the Austin Police Department are not due to officers but the continued vacancies plaguing the department. As of Thursday, there were 342 vacancies for sworn officers, according to police.

In addition to Austin police officers, Williamson County sheriff’s office deputies will also be able to use the space, as the area straddles the border between Travis and Williamson counties. The center is located in Williamson County.

Jeff Greenwalt, chief of staff for the Austin Police Department, said the center will help reduce crime in the area by allowing officers to have a continued presence in the region, while helping reduce response times. He noted that the nearest substation is about 10 to 30 minutes away, depending on traffic.

The Austin Police Department is slated to build a new substation in Canyon Creek near where the new fire and EMS station is being built. The American-Statesman asked Interim Deputy City Manager Bruce Mills about the status of construction and when it might be finished but did not immediately receive a response.

Greenwalt said there may not always be officers at the center, as it will depend on their duties at any given time, but it will always be open to them. He said the center is the only one of its kind in the city right now, although the department has used similar things in the past to have temporary substations.

As for the new center, Greenwalt said one of the most important things it will do, in addition to helping deter crime, is help with the community’s perception of public safety in the area.

“We can say crime is low all day, but if people still fear crime, that’s also important,” Greenwalt said. “So they’ll see us out here (and) they’ll know we’re here more often.”

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