Part II of our interview with 15th District Commander Al Wysinger:
AWN: Growing up on the West Side, did you want to be a policeman or did you have some other profession in mind?
Wysinger: I actually wanted to be a police officer since I was a young kid. I grew up watching shows like Rookies, Mod Squad, and you actually had positive African-American role models in law enforcement. I liked what they stood for, so that was something I wanted to do. As I got a little older, I thought about pursuing a career in dentistry and that didn’t work out. So I guess my longing to be a police officer never waned. It was something I decided to do. Up to this point, I think I made the right decision.
I was the commanding officer for the Narcotics and Gang Investigation Section [NAGIS], Area 5, so actually the 15th District was one of the districts that I had put the majority of my resources in.”
AWN: I read on your website about roadside checks. How is that effort going?
Wysinger: Crime generally seems to go up in the summer in the warm [weather]. We try to put those safety checks in place in the months when we’re going to get the most bang for our bucks. Cold weather sometimes plays an important role as far as crime fighting strategies go. Cold tends to work on our side sometimes because people aren’t out as much. They aren’t hanging out or trying to rob and hurt people like in the summer time.
AWN: We had a problem a few years ago with people from the suburbs getting off the expressway to buy drugs in Austin. Is that still a problem?
Wysinger: We put a dramatic dent in that. Not just me-several elected officials, Alderman Carothers, they worked to put in cul-de-sacs and actually change some of the streets, making some one-way to make it difficult for those people to have easy access to the Austin community. We put the cameras up and every time they get arrested, we try to make it as publicized as possible so the word is out. We joined partnerships with the communities where they were coming from. So [when] they get arrested here, we make sure that they know: This is what your citizens are bringing back to your community.
AWN: How does the average citizen know if the cameras are helping? Are records being kept or are they there to dupe the community?
Wysinger: No, I think the cameras are probably one of most useful tools we have. Nothing is going to replace old-fashioned, hard-nosed police work, but the cameras are a deterrent. It actually drives them away from some of the major locations. Being a criminal is like everything else-whatever new tools we come with, they try to figure out ways to displace them. It’s our job to stay one step ahead of them, but the cameras are very, very helpful.
AWN: So do you keep any kind of statistics for the cameras, like you do with roadside checks?
Wysinger: No, I don’t think they keep monthly statistics. We just look at the calls, and the service and crime has been suppressed in those areas. Just about every area where the cameras have gone up, the crime has gone down.
AWN: Wouldn’t it be good to have some kind of record to show to the public?
Wysinger: That would be a great idea. I will look into that, but just speaking from my experience wherever those cameras have gone up, you see crime go down.
AWN: Do you get complaints from residents that the cameras have now sent crime to their block?
Wysinger: Yes, we do. Before some of the cameras go up, we reach out to the neighborhood. If you got a strong block club and strong community intact, it’s not going to allow crime to set up there. And that is the best way to get rid of them.
AWN: What are your goals for this year 2007 for the Austin community?
Wysinger: My number one priority is to try to get rid of some of these drug sales. That seems to be the biggest concern of the citizens in the Austin community. We’ve got a lot of investment and business coming back and nobody wants a drug dealer standing in front of their residence, in front of their children’s schools, churches or in front of their buildings, so if we can eradicate the narcotics sales, I think that will make the Austin community stronger and more appealing to people who may want to come in to the Austin community.
AWN: In summary, do people think you should be different because you are a African-American?
Wysinger: They do come up. I mean an African-American commander, it’s a great honor and a very prestigious position. I just tell them I try to go out and do the best I can. Of course I have great pride in my heritage and my community and think that is one of the driving forces behind me, giving everything that I have. When I go out here and I see these people and come to work, I give 110 percent. I leave it all out there, like Michael Jackson said. I leave it on the floor. So when I do go home at night, I go home with a clear conscience, knowing that I’ve done everything I could for that particular day, and that’s the way you have to look at it.