(Charlie L. Harper III)
Emboldened, perhaps, by reports that Austin police were making fewer traffic stops and feeling safer, possibly, with fewer cars on the road, two local motorists were pulled over this week on separate occasions for driving over 100 mph on MoPac.

Not necessarily headline-grabbing news under normal circumstances.

But they were part of a wave of targeted traffic stops after the Austin Police Department began accelerating traffic enforcement on May 15, a response to an upswing in fatalities and serious wrecks since the pandemic began.

The Austin Police Department declined to release statistics showing what they described in a news release as "a significant number" of crashes and fatalities.

Police said on May 15, the day the initiative started, that there had been 33 fatal crashes in Austin that have killed 35 people since January. In the same time last year, the number was 30.

That can be a considered a significant jump in the numbers because crisis-related workplace closures, staff layoffs and stay-at-home orders meant that streets and highways were usually empty, with only a small fraction of normal traffic out on the road.

In other words, less traffic—but more traffic deaths.

Police said they would be "focusing presence and enforcement on high-speed and high-traffic roadways" through May 31.

"Officers will concentrate on reducing crashes overall through directed patrols," a police statement this week said. "The increased patrol visibility is intended to dissuade speeding, red-light violations and other dangerous driving behaviors that contribute to unsafe conditions for all road users."

Prior to May 15, Austin police had been discouraged from enforcing non-hazardous traffic violations to avoid more contact with the public than necessary.

Asked if the focused patrols would last beyond May 31, police declined to be interviewed for this story but emailed the following quote, attributed to Lt. Jason Disher of the Austin police Highway Enforcement Command.

"APD is dedicated to traffic safety and will continue to work to reduce crashes through education and enforcement," Disher said.

(Austonia staff)

Several Austin City Council members either called for Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to step down or suggested that he should during a special City Council meeting today.

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(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

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Austin residents who have been participating in protests and other gatherings, or have been unable to socially distance during the pandemic, will be allowed to sign up for a free COVID-19 test starting Friday at the city's drive-thru testing site, according to a notice by Austin Public Health.

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As local activists groups see a chance to gain support for defunding the Austin Police Department, we wanted to know where Austonia readers stood on the issue. Yesterday, we asked, "What should the City Council do about the APD budget?" and the results show 53% voted to add funding to APD.

Results of APD budget survey


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(Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock)

"We have been listening and learning," reads a message on the Cedar Park Police Department's Facebook page.

It would be easy for Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale, whose community is more than 80% white, to look at the unrest happening in larger metro areas like Austin and decide it's not his problem.

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Yesterday's protests in Austin brought out University of Texas football players. Players marched arm-in-arm with others from Royal-Memorial Stadium to the State Capitol to demonstrate against police brutality in the seventh day of Austin protests.

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(Austonia staff)

Protesters shut down I-35 in Austin.

The Austin Police Department will no longer use the lead-filled fabric pillows known as bean bag rounds—a form of "less lethal" ammunition that was used against protesters last weekend and seriously injured several—in crowd situations, Chief Brian Manley told the City Council yesterday.

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