Liquor stores and gas stations in Austin that allow illegal activity around their properties have been put on notice by the 15th Police District they must help stop that activity.
Cmdr. Dwayne Betts has met with business owners over the summer to encourage them to crack down on incidents in front of their stores.
Betts said he’s talked with liquor store and gas station owners about making their areas safe, encouraging them to work with police and the community.
Drugs and loose cigarette selling are among the problems at some spots, Betts said.
“You are responsible for your immediate area. These are stores allowing criminal activity outside,” the commander said at a recent 29th Ward community meeting at Columbus Park Refectory attended by about 50 people.
Betts invited the business owners to meet with him at 15th District headquarters, 5701 W. Madison, this summer to get their input and support. The commander noted that some business owners are actively monitoring their areas but not all.
“Every gas station in this district was brought in to discuss how to make it more safe around the station,” Betts said.
“It’s not safe if you’re allowing people to sell drugs on that property, and you watch all that goes on in front of your property. Even if it’s across the street, if it’s in your view, you have an obligation to call the police.”
Shootings and robberies at some gas stations, Betts added, is also a major concern.
Th 15th District’s top cop said police had to shut down one Austin gas station for several weeks because the criminal activity had become so bad. Upon reopening, the station had several restrictions imposed, including having better outside lighting and security, and keeping the sidewalks clean.
“We’re working on properties like that, to make a commitment that they will not only make sure that they’re area is clear but at the same time call the police,” Betts said.
But some residents would like to see some of these businesses closed for good because of the criminal activity they attract.
Resident and activist C.B. Johnson is among a group of neighbors looking to ban liquor stores in their 42nd precinct.
They’ve launched a petition drive to get a referendum on next spring’s election ballot to vote for a “dry” 42nd precinct, which is located near Columbus Park from Central Avenue east to Lotus Avenue and Flournoy Street north to Jackson Boulevard.
There are more liquor stores than after-school programs, Johnson said.
“If a person wants to show me commitment that they want to own a liquor store in this community, they should move on that block. They should be a part of what the people deal with on that block if they’re going to make money off that block. If you’re not willing to do that, don’t tell me about partnership with the community.”
Betts said his officers are also working to tamp down criminal activity around Austin’s parks, including arresting a group of youth this summer who were robbing people near Columbus Park.
“They’re patrolling hot spots. They’re making arrests,” he said, adding that his officers are also getting guns off the street.
As of last month, the district has recovered 102 guns so far this year, 30 more than over the same period last year, Betts said.
“I know sometimes you see what happens when things go wrong, but there’s some stories not being told of the great things we’re doing.”