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Coronavirus concerns mean smaller crowds on Sixth Street, less overtime police presence

With fewer people going out in Austin, the Austin Police Association said APD had to cut overtime and send officers home on Friday night.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said Downtown Austin crowds are small this weekend and Austin Police don't need their overtime officers patrolling most of downtown. 

"Believe it or not, the officers are always prepared for emergencies, including a virus like this, but it’s stressful on the families. People are having their hours changed. We have officers moving out of their jobs to move back to patrol," said Casaday. 

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Casaday said officers are still patrolling other parts of town, but usually during this time of the year, Austin police schedule overtime officers to deal with South By Southwest crowds. 

He said between canceling the festival and the coronavirus outbreak, Casaday thinks people are just staying home.

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"Driving down Sixth street yesterday, it was us and some homeless people out on the streets. There's wasn't many people shopping. The bars were empty. It was disappointing to see, but you know, we had to take all the precautions we can to keep this virus from spreading," said Casaday. 

Some APD officers rely on that overtime money and Casaday said it's going to be tough for some of them to bounce back from this financially. 

"A lot of officers use the money to pay their taxes, so there’s going to be a lot of stress and a lot of officers really suffering by the end of the year," said Casaday. "We've had all of South By Southwest overtime, for the most part, canceled. So right now, it's a pretty stressful situation in the department."

He knows APD isn't alone with this issue.

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"It’s not just officers losing money. It’s also the waiters and waitresses downtown, people that work in restaurants or hotels. Occupancy is down 80% for these next two weeks," said Casaday.

Casaday still thinks there will be big crowds in downtown next week for unofficial South By Southwest music events. He said APD will be sure to be fully staffed next weekend too.

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