Naked City

Safety First

On Aug. 6, city staff presented the City Council with the major recommendations of the 19-member Public Safety Task Force, which has spent the past five months reviewing the city's strategies for protecting against and dealing with major emergencies. Consisting of law enforcement, health service professionals, and a host of other security-minded stakeholders, the task force developed recommendations for council's consideration. Among the highlights: hiring 75 new APD officers each year for the next four years, and opening up a city-run urgent care facility to relieve emergency room strain at Brackenridge Hospital.

"The task force identified public safety staffing as their number one priority," said Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman. Sixty new officers are already allotted for in the proposed budget, Huffman noted, adding that she's not certain whether a cash-strapped council will endorse 15 additional officers. The staff increase would bring the city ratio up to 2.0 -- two officers for every 1,000 residents -- and would also facilitate the staffing of the two new area commands in North Central and South Central Austin, she said.

On the public health front, the new clinic to offset Brackenridge's emergency services would operate 24/7, Huffman said, and would take the least-urgent cases out of the emergency room, as a "way to alleviate traffic." With the officer increase still up in the air, the city is already moving forward on creating the clinic. Neither the projected cost of the facility nor its intended location was readily available.

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