Sign up for the Austonia daily newsletter
×
becomeMemberIcon

become a member

youtu.be

Sixth Street, Austin's most historic nightlife district, has seen two shootings in a week as city officials scramble to roll out safety measures.

A man was shot on Sixth Street with non-life-threatening injuries early Thursday morning, marking the second Sixth Street shooting in a week as the city works to address the nightlife district's now-notorious gun violence issues.


Austin police said they received a call around 12:30 a.m. Thursday after two men "may have been engaged in gunplay" with each other near Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on East Sixth Street, according to Officer Eric Cleveland. One man was shot and hospitalized with non-critical injuries.

The shooting comes just two days after a man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after being shot at East Sixth Street's Lodge Bar early Tuesday morning.

Some business owners, including Gnar Bar owner Jesse Fortney said they're losing hope in the area's safety.

"This has ruined Sixth Street completely. It makes owning a business on this street almost impossible," Fortney told KXAN.

The shootings come as the city mobilizes to improve safety on Sixth Street as both the city and district follow a nationwide uptick in gun violence this year. In June, City Council adopted a Safer Sixth Street Initiative after a mass shooting that left one dead and 15 hospitalized on June 15. As of November 11, six homicides and nearly 60 aggravated assaults have been reported in the area this year.

Four months after the mass shooting and a few days before a 17-year-old died in an officer-involved "gun battle" in the district, the city reported nine priorities in the works to curb the violence.

APD, Austin Fire and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services have teamed up to create an on-site command center for a "rescue task force," according to Police Chief Joseph Chacon. APD will also partner up with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission to crack down on fake IDs and underage drinking.

Austin Energy, which reported that as many as 10% of the area's historic streetlights were not working previously, has replaced 64 lights with brighter LED fixtures in the area and is improving maintenance on side streets and alleys.

But studies have shown a mixed bag on whether increased lighting can prevent crimes. While the New York City Police Department found in an experiment that increased levels of lighting led to a 36% reduction in "index crimes"— including murder, robbery, aggravated assault and certain property crimes— several other studies have found little to no evidence that this is the case, and a few have shown the opposite to be true.

Instead, a 2019 study in the Homeland Security Affairs Journal found that "place management," which involves behaviors of business managers in an area, might be the key to preventing crime in entertainment districts. A Kansas City study found that "13% of the city's 535 taverns produced half of the 11,338 offenses that occurred over a five-year period," meaning that certain businesses became notorious for crime and thus attracted danger.

The idea of cultivating relationships between business owners in these areas has become a nationwide trend and Austin has looked to other districts across the country for help. The Clarendon Entertainment District in Arlington, Virginia, was once grappling with safety concerns like Sixth Street but has since slowly built trust between bar staff and police by prioritizing training and "a constant flow of communication" with enforcement.

Brian Block, Austin's manager of entertainment services, is using the district as a sort of role model as they look to build that relationship on Sixth Street.

"We can always increase and improve the communication and partnerships," Block told KXAN. "That's really what we're after, in making it more formal, adding formal training, and adding formal meetings where we can enhance that dialogue."

Most recently, the Downtown Commission is looking into switching up Sixth Street's public space design could make it more welcoming to pedestrians. Multiple organizations could be involved in promoting daytime non-drinking activities, such as a farmers' market, and converting vacated lots into more diverse businesses such as theaters, Block said.

Enjoying Austonia? Signup for our newsletter to get daily Austin news, straight to your morning inbox!

Popular

(Shutterstock)

It's official, jack-of-all-trades Matthew McConaughey is staying out of politics and not running for Texas governor.

Keep Reading Show less

(Texas Monthly)

There is a fearless declaration of the obvious in “Being Texan: Essays, Recipes, and Advice for the Lone Star Way of Life,” a book that invites its readers to recall the power and panache of the late Texas Gov. Anne Richards, before getting schooled on no less than twenty types of taco.

Keep Reading Show less

Stories from the Road delivers an interactive performance while aiming to paying musicians farily. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

In a city where live music is heralded above all else, Pete Monfre was surprised to find local musicians working for free that he quit the industry for 10 years in 2006.

Keep Reading Show less