Police chief tries to address concerns over New Year’s Day attacks

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Chief of Police Art Acevedo speaks to members of the North University Neighborhood Association and other concerned citizens about safety in the community at the First English Lutheran Church Wednesday evening. Austin Police Department officers gave safety advice and answered questions about the murder and two assaults that occurred this month.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Concerned by a string of New Year’s Day assaults, members of the North University Neighborhood Association and the campus community gathered at First English Lutheran Church on Wednesday evening to discuss safety with representatives of the Austin Police Department.

Police Chief Art Acevedo attended the meeting with five other uniformed officers to speak with residents about the murder of Esmeralda Barrera and the two other assaults that occurred in the North Campus area on Jan 1. Acevedo said APD still cannot confirm that the three New Year’s Day assaults were committed by the same person. However, the first woman attacked was able to give a description of her attacker, and the department has released information about the events that morning in conjunction with a drawing based off of her description.

“That sketch is interesting to us,” Acevedo said. “A man who is capable of attacking a woman could very well be capable of homicide. All of our different departments have been working together to catch a break and get this guy.”

Acevedo said despite departmental cooperation, APD has not had success in apprehending the man depicted in the sketch.

Public relations senior Abby Snow said she appreciated that Acevedo answered questions, but she was disappointed that there were very few details about the incident that Acevedo was able to release.

“We just wanted more information,” Snow said. “I get that the investigation is still ongoing so the police are limited in what they can release, but I was interested in hearing some more details about [the New Year’s Day events].”

Snow’s roommate, Brooke Carter, a pre-public relations sophomore, said they live on 38th Street and have been very concerned by the recent crimes in the area.

“These events have been pretty unsettling, but everyone has been asking about the sketch and sending in tips, which is positive,” Carter said.

At the meeting, Acevedo also answered questions posed by the students and residents in the audience and gave out a number of safety tips. He advised residents to reinforce their doors if possible and to not walk or run alone at night. He also said walking downtown or anywhere in Austin while visibly intoxicated can be dangerous.

“You are putting a target on yourself and putting yourself in danger [when you walk in public while intoxicated],” he said.

Acevedo said members of NUNA and other Austin residents should be aware of what is occurring in their neighborhoods.

“When you see suspicious stuff, call it in,” Acevedo said. “We shouldn’t wait until we have a tragedy to come together.”

Printed on Thursday, January 19, 2012 as: APD addresses concerns about attack