Safety A Priority At This Year’s SXSW Festival After 2014 DWI Crash

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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – The South by Southwest Music Festival kicked off Tuesday afternoon in Austin. And after a deadly 2014 DWI crash, safety is priority number one for law enforcement there.

CBS 11 News went behind-the-scenes to look at the changes that have been made.

Concertgoers at SXSW are sure to see more officers and enforcement out at this year’s festival. City officials and event organizers say the move was made in the hope that problems could be ‘silenced’ before the music gets going.

Historically, SXSW has meant people, bands, and lots of adult beverages. It can be the perfect recipe for fun and trouble.

They call themselves PACE or public assembly code enforcement. Code compliance Officer Robert Alvarado said, “You can look at it like we’re the party poopers.”

Alvarado and his team, along with the assistance of police and fire departments in Austin, are a part of the proactive approach to prevent SXSW disaster.

It was just last year when police say Rashad Owens led them on a chase. It ended with Owens plowing through a barricade and into pedestrians. Nearly two-dozen people were injured and four killed, including Fort Worth resident Deandre Tatum.

“Up until then, we haven’t had an incident like that. So it was definitely an eye-opener,” Alvarado said.

The city is putting more emphasis on overcrowding and infrastructure this year. Organizers have also been told to limit free alcohol and watch long lines.

Alvarado says there are plans in place to keep order, but the hope is officers won’t be needed. “As a unit, we can handle just about everything we come across. I think we’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best.”

SXSW organizers say they’re also planning a moment of silence at midnight, for all of those who died or were injured last year. They say they will carry on the memory of victims with sad hearts.

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