City council approves second phase of increased safety measures for 6th Street

Hope Unger, News Reporter

Megan was celebrating her birthday with friends at the Sixth Street bar Buck Wild last June when her phone started blowing up with people asking if she was safe. A shooting had just occurred, and she didn’t even realize it had happened.

“It was so loud from the music and people talking that you didn’t hear anything at all, and Buck Wild was very close to where it happened,” said Megan, an advertising sophomore who wishes to keep her last name anonymous.

Following June’s shooting that killed one person and injured 13, Austin City Council members passed the first phase of the Safer Sixth Street Initiative, and members approved the second phase on March 3. The latest resolution asks businesses operating after midnight to increase training for bar staff on communication with public safety professionals. Officials will also determine if there is sufficient street lighting on Sixth Street, City Council member Kathie Tovo said. City officials also plan to gather more information on gun buyback programs, set up an emergency medical services staging area on Sixth Street and look into taking legal action against establishments with records of repeated violence, according to a March 3 press release

Tovo said the most recent shooting on Sixth Street on March 20 that left four people injured highlights the need for updated safety measures.

“I am absolutely committed to bringing forward any actions that will help (address) this situation and provide a safer environment for people going down to Sixth Street or (for) people who work and live around that area,” Tovo said.

Monica Villarreal, an MIS and Spanish sophomore in the business honors program, said she frequently goes to Sixth Street and has witnessed multiple fights. Villarreal said on various occasions, men have made unwanted sexual advances toward her. 

“A lot of the time, in the moment whenever it’s happening, you can’t see who it is,” Villarreal said. “Knowing that the staff can handle those situations would help me a lot so that I can go to them to ask for help. That’s probably the most important part for me.”

Villarreal said that after rejecting a man following unwanted sexual advances, her friends noticed he would watch and follow her around even when they went to a different bar. 

“(The police) are there but I definitely don’t think that there are enough,” Villarreal said. “I know (these incidents) don’t happen to me all the time that I go but I feel like it’s happening every night at least to someone.”

Megan said the Safer Sixth Street Initiative is a good start, but that it only offers so much protection since most of the violence happens outside of the bars.  

“I think it’s important for the city to work towards a solution (to combat) the violence on Sixth,” Megan said. “It will take a while, but I think they will be able to come to a solution at some point.”