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Austin's Million-Dollar Plan to Restore Rundberg Underway

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Rundberg Lane is one of Austin’s  highest-crime areas.

From 2007 to 2011, the Rundberg area accounted for 11 percent of violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The Justice Department recently gave a $1 million grant to improve the area. On Wednesday, community leaders will get together to strategize on ways they can challenge crime in the neighborhood.

Dave Kirk, a sociology professor at the University of Texas, says the area is in “desperate” need of change – considering the size of the area, and its majority of law-abiding residents. “We are talking about roughly 40,000 residents across three neighborhood planning areas,” he says.

Kirk’s helping the Austin Police Department develop strategies to positively change Rundberg. His initial strategy involves becoming part of the fabric of a neighborhood where he doesn’t belong: He’s an academic who doesn’t live there, but he says going door-to-door and meeting neighbors has helped.

“I think developing trust between myself and the community makes me more effective,” Kirk says. “It’s important for APD and the community to develop trust.”

To do that, Austin Police are looking to meet with Rundberg community leaders tonight at 6 discuss ideas to make the neighborhood safer. Kirk says one idea that’s come out of preliminary meetings has already prompted neighbors into action.

“A lot of housing – particularly in the multi-family units – are unsafe,” he says. “So the community had some great ideas, such as working with the code compliance department to try to remedy all the unsafe housing conditions. It just so happens that when you’ve got unsafe housing there is also, often times, criminal activity.”

Earlier this year, police began tagging and towing vehicles that were illegally parked or vehicles that were blocking sidewalks and crosswalks around the Rundberg area – the “broken windows” theory of policing that begins with a focus on an area’s environment.

Tonight’s meeting is at the Greater Austin Merchant Association building from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Intern for KUT News. Born and raised in Austin, but currently a senior at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I am a Journalism News-Editorial Major and I am studying French as well. I love to read in my spare time (if I have time!) and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Harry Potter are a couple of my favorite series.
Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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