City receives $1 million federal grant to decrease crime in North Austin

Austin City Council approved receiving a $1 million federal grant from the U.S Justice Department on Dec. 6 for the Restore Rundberg project, an initiative to decrease crime in the Rundberg Lane area.

The three-year grant will provide funds to research, increase enforcement and facilitate more community outreach. Austin is one of seven cities to receive the grant.

"The goal at the end of the three years is to be able to walk away with a stable plan that has long-term results," said Mark Spangler, a commander with the Austin Police Department. "We hope that with this fusion of funding we can come up with something different that has not been done before."

Data on the 5.7 miles of the Rundberg Lane area showed that it has an ongoing crime problem, is a distressed community and has the potential for revitalization, all of which were requirements to receive the grant, Spangler said. Five percent of the city's population lives in the area, which amounts to 38,000 residents. Eleven percent of violent crimes—which include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary—in the City of Austin occur in the Rundberg Lane area, Spangler said. For the initiative to be successful, community input and involvement is vital, he said.

"Each one of [the residents'] voices is important," Spangler said. "The potential for revitalization, that exists in that area."

Spangler said the goal is to replicate the initiative in other areas of the city and nation if the Restore Rundberg project is successful. David Kirk, a sociology professor at The University of Texas, will conduct research on the area and take community input on innovative ways to decrease crime, Spangler said.