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After Austin Bombings, Residents Band Together To Keep Neighborhoods Safe

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT
Austin residents gather for a meeting about how to keep their neighborhoods safe, at Huston-Tillotson University on Thursday.

A few dozen people gathered last week at the King-Seabrook Chapel at Huston-Tillotson University for a community safety meeting organized by the Austin Local Organizing Committee.

“The reason that we are here is not a pleasurable reason,” Robert Muhammad, one of the event's hosts, told the audience.

Muhammad said the spate of attacks in minority neighborhoods has put many people of color on alert, despite police saying the bomber's recorded confession did not identify race as a motive.

“In traditional black and Latino communities, the two brothers were targeted,” Muhammad said. “Their homes were targeted, and they lost their lives.”

Following the bombings, the nonprofit group has held a number of meetings to teach residents things like how to protect their homes, when to call 911 versus 311, and how to organize neighborhood watches. The idea is to take a more proactive approach to protecting communities.

Credit Lynda Gonzalez for KUT
Austin Police Sgt. Lawrence Davis stressed the need for residents to get to know their neighbors, but to call police if they see something suspicious.

Austin Police Sgt. Lawrence Davis led the participants through some basic home safety tips. He also spoke about the need for residents to get to know their neighbors, a point that city leaders have emphasized since the bombings.

But Davis said if someone makes you feel threatened, don’t ignore that feeling. If you sense something suspicious, he said, it’s worth reporting and letting police handle the situation.

A recurring theme throughout the discussion was that people feel a responsibility to take ownership of their neighborhoods, to protect themselves and their loved ones.

10,000 Fearless Austin had a table outside the meeting where people could sign up for free training sessions on how to protect themselves.

“I don’t want just to initiate a neighborhood watch,” Christina Muhammad, a coordinator with the group, said. “I want us to keep watch. ... You should always be on the alert, but also learn how to train and get involved.”

Editor's note: A quote was removed from this story from a person who said they believed their public comments at the event would not be heard outside the room.

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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