An Austin, Texas intersection exploded out of control Saturday night as violent street racers took over, shooting off fireworks and eventually injuring a police officer, prompting City Council members to speak out concerning police department vacancies and problems at the 911 call center.
(Video Credit: KVUE)
The intersection at South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road was taken over by street racers who pulled stunts and set off fireworks as a large crowd looked on and recorded it shortly after 9 pm on Saturday. It went on until about 1:30 am.
A number of police cars were damaged as crowds pushed back against them while they responded to multiple “street racing incidents,” resulting in one officer getting injured. Officials stated that the injured officer was treated and released from a hospital but offered no specifics on the injuries. They described damage to several patrol cars as shattered windows and dents.
“Imagine for a moment that the incidents last night happened with large-scale events going on,” Council member Mackenzie Kelly noted on Sunday while stating that she is “increasingly concerned about our police vacancies,” according to Fox News.
“The possibility of a catastrophic cascading failure due to lack of support from our police department puts the city, its residents, and visitors at risk of danger,” she added.
It’s been about 20 minutes since the first cars arrived to block off the intersection pic.twitter.com/l8yLqCVKN6
— Allie Morris 🌟 (@MorrisReports) February 19, 2023
State Rep. Jeff Leach (R) tweeted his support for police in cities where “they’re undervalued, underpaid and under attack.”
Many thoughts about this maddening lawlessness in Austin last night.
But more than anything: God bless our brave men and women in blue! Especially those working in cities where they’re undervalued, underpaid and under attack, like in Austin. #txlege https://t.co/Xrcjj6afAy
— Jeff Leach (@leachfortexas) February 19, 2023
Austin-area US Rep. Chip Roy (R) tweeted, “Austin heading down dangerous road… I apologize to the APD officers who have to put up with this crap, only to have city leaders play games with your contract #StandUpForAmerica.”
I no longer represent this exact intersection in Austin (did for 4 years) but I stand with law enforcement, small business owners, and Austin residents who have had it, and will not forsake public safety in our capital city to appease antifa-lite activists #TX21 https://t.co/gdjux1NlvG
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) February 19, 2023
A bystander named Duke Whitman witnessed the events Saturday night, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
He estimated a crowd of 250 people stood around while cars did doughnuts in the intersection. Whitman claimed he saw multiple people in the crowd get hit by the cars doing doughnuts.
“My concern is 30- to 40-minute (police) response time for something that is relatively large,” he commented. “It wouldn’t take much for something like that to get way out of hand.”
In Austin now: people setting off fireworks, blocking off the street, doing donuts, like 500 people, cops can’t get close (Lamar and Barton Springs Rd)
Is this a promotional event of some kind you’re sponsoring @girdley ? pic.twitter.com/DfNxmDxQl6
— Ben Tiggelaar 🟠 (@bentigg) February 19, 2023
Council Member Alison Alter told the Austin American-Statesman in an interview that when she saw the street racing, she called 911 and was put on hold for 28 minutes.
The Austin Police Department’s emergency communications division is experiencing a staffing crisis. The 911 call center lowered its minimum staffing requirements last August due to “unprecedented vacancy rates.” They just can’t find enough qualified people to do the job and the situation is getting increasingly more dangerous.
The average hold time for a 911 call in Austin was two-and-a-half minutes in October. Approximately two-thirds of 911 calls taken were answered within 15 seconds. That’s way below the national standard of 90% in 15 seconds or less, according to Fox News.
A one-year contract extension between the city and the Austin Police Association was voted on this week with Kelly and Alter being the only two council members voting against it. The nine other members voted for the contract extension. The current contract runs out at the end of March.
The union opposes the temporary extension of the contract. It has been in negotiations with the city to cement a four-year agreement. That deal appears to have fallen through after City Manager Spencer Cronk was terminated last week for mishandling a major winter storm, according to the Texas Tribune.
“We can improve reasonable police oversight. Accountability is critical to maintain the bonds of trust between police and the community,” Kelly, who supports the four-year contract, asserted on Sunday.
“But the simple fact is that we need more police officers in this city, patrolling our streets, downtown, and major events. We need more police responding to calls for service. We need more police to reinstate specialized units. This must be an urgent priority for the new mayor and the city council,” she remarked.
Austin really be like that? IDK, but it was something from a show, movie, dream, or reality?… We can't tell anymore… #atxnightlife #atxtraffic pic.twitter.com/vQgsGUsUYI
— Lewis Guapo (@lewisguapo) February 19, 2023
Newly elected Mayor Kirk Watson hasn’t made a statement on the street racing incident this weekend. According to the Austin Police Department, two people were arrested for evading arrest.
According to Fox News: “Austin’s city council and then-Mayor Steve Adler voted to slash APD’s funding by about one-third during the 2020 riots at the height of the ‘defund the police’ movement. That vote was supported by an activist coalition led by groups including the Austin Justice Coalition. APD’s funding was later restored in order to comply with a state law passed in 2021, but by then, officers had left APD in droves, specialized units were reduced or disbanded, and cadet classes had been canceled, so the departed officers could not be replaced.”
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza has also gone on the hunt for police officers, indicting more than a dozen of them for quelling the 2020 riots, which damaged the state capitol, blocked major thoroughfares downtown, and threatened police headquarters.
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