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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Police Chief presents solutions to Northgate safety to City Council

Photo by Arianna Menchaca

The Dixie Chicken sign and Bottle Cap Alley at sunset in Northgate on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022

After noticing a rise in police and fire calls in the Northgate Entertainment District, Police Chief Billy Couch presented the Aug. 25 City Council meeting with statistics and recommendations for the area.

The Northgate District is located across University Drive from the Texas A&M campus. The district features 31 bars that students frequent. The City Council has not currently decided to act on any of Couch’s recommendations.

“The characteristics of Northgate have changed a great deal in the last 10 to 15 years,” Couch said in his presentation. “We have seen unprecedented growth in our residential population. We’ve also seen an explosion in the number of licensed bars that have gone into the Northgate area. These two things combined have created demand for unmet services for goods and services and commodities.”

In 2021, Northgate had 10,920 police calls for service, while Century Square, Post Oak Mall and University Drive East combined a total of 1,064 calls for the whole year. The most common call types in Northgate are overdose, unconscious person, traumatic injuries, assault and falls, according to Couch’s report.

“They’re not easy calls,” Couch said. “What these calls don’t represent is that every problem that occurred in Northgate requires a follow up investigation. Every offense report we took was assigned to a detective back at the station and they spent countless hours working those offenses.”

For the 2021 year, the tax revenue from Northgate bars totaled $246,692, and the total expenses from the police and fire departments totaled $2,769,917.

As for solutions for increased safety at the bars, Couch suggested requiring cameras within bars, wanding customers upon entry and removing outdoor speakers. For traffic calming, he suggested speed bumps to slow traffic, completing unfinished sidewalks, adding bike lanes and enhancing the wall along University Drive.

“We [required cameras] for the convenience stores and it has proven invaluable,” Couch said. “You now have the convenience stores required by ordinance to have camera systems and when they have a criminal incident to provide that footage to the police department.”

At the meeting, Mayor Karl Mooney said he believed extending the wall at University would bring immediate, improved safety.
“I still think of the time when we had those two young people who ran across the street on University and were killed,” Mooney said. “They ran right out into traffic at four o’clock. I ended up rewriting my lesson plan for the next day, and I brought that in front of my class. It was a good lesson for them, but it was also a sobering lesson for us that we needed.”
Couch also suggested environmental long-term safety considerations including limiting the number of bars and implementing entertainment district fees.
“We have to find a way to limit the number of bars until a broader solution can be reached,” Couch said. “This presentation is not targeting any specific bar and I have no information to suggest any specific bar is creating these issues. But what I can tell you is that the collective nature of 31 bars in a very small geographic area is problematic and it creates an unsafe environment that sets the city up for a catastrophic event.”
While the City Council members showed support for the short-term, lower-cost solutions at the meeting, there are no current plans to implement them.
“There’s a whole ambience about Northgate that’s different from the days when Ralph’s Pizza was the only entertainment in town,” Council Member Dennis Maloney said. “I would like to be able to create an environment where we encourage some restaurants to have a nice meal, walk around and do a little shopping.”

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