Caught on camera: Increase in vehicle thefts near Zilker Park, Barton Springs

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Caleb Remington regularly takes his dog Charlie to Barking Springs. The stretch of water just east of Barton Springs is a regular spot for people looking for a place to cool off with their four-legged friends.

The swimming hole and nearby Zilker Park are well-populated destinations for enjoying the Austin weather, but they have also become a hot spot for criminals.

“It’s pretty common for me to come to Barton Springs, take my dog ​​swimming and find broken glass in the parking lot,” Remington said.

Such was the case on Sunday afternoon. A person who filmed the car break-in, who did not want to be named, told us someone in a black Honda CRV broke the passenger window of a Ford Bronco parked in the parking lot off Andrew Zilker Road and William Barton Drive around 4:30 p.m.

What appears to be a young woman in the back seat of the car can be seen grabbing a bag or backpack from the passenger side of the Bronco before getting back into the black CRV and taking off. The suspect’s car has paper plates.

Austin Police Department created a crime dashboard specific to the parks earlier this year. It shows that there are more crimes reported in Zilker Park than any other city park, with Mount Bonnell coming in second. Theft is the most commonly reported crime in and near parks overall by a significant margin. The dashboard shows that “property crimes” in the last year have increased by 25% compared to the previous year.

“I came into this unit in 2014 and I’ve been here ever since and I’ve seen it gradually deteriorate, it was a problem then and it’s still a problem now. We just have a lot more of him, a lot more people here in town as well,” said Detective Jared Manning of the Austin Police Department.

Manning is the only detective assigned to investigate vehicle burglaries in South Austin, he told us. There used to be three detectives for the job, but staff shortages have limited investigative resources.

The Austin Police Department also got rid of its parks police unit in 2020 to bring people back to patrol amid a staff shortage, something Manning said appears to have exacerbated the problem.

Meanwhile, some members of the Public Safety Commission and Parks and Recreation Board are teaming up to look at public safety right now and bring solutions to the Austin City Council.

“I take the safety of our park residents seriously. Everyone should feel safe in our city’s public parks,” said Council Member Paige Ellis, District 8. This is the district that encompasses the Zilker Park area. “My office has been in communication with the Austin Police Department to discuss enhanced safety measures to address residents’ safety concerns. We’ve also heard from advocacy groups in District 8 who are proposing several safety initiatives that we see as viable solutions.

While we work on these strategies, we encourage the public to exercise caution by making sure they do not leave valuables visible in the vehicle and to be aware of their surroundings while enjoying the park.”

Manning said if you are the victim of a burglary, report it to the police department using 311 or online police department reporting toolwhich according to Manning is generally faster than the 311.

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