Austin Officials Review Safety for SXSW Festival

Calling this year a "critical point," officials in Austin proposed several changes Thursday to make the annual South by Southwest festival safer, particularly after a car crash earlier this year killed four people.

The city released a report Thursday with several recommendations, including issuing temporary event permits, adding patrol officers, and creating a downtown shuttle to reduce traffic congestion, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The report faults organizers and planners of "secret shows" for not notifying the city in advance.

"Many times an internationally-known celebrity will draw huge crowds to venues with no safety plan," the report said. "The lack of coordination ... prior to events results in public safety personnel having to react to situations rather than a safer, pro-active event management mode."

Last year's festival was marred by a car crash when a driver rammed a crowd waiting outside a club in downtown Austin, killing 4 people.

The report suggests limiting the number of event permits during the festival and doing more to crack down on overcrowding at venues, including giving officials the power to shut down events where performers or organizers endanger public safety.

The Austin city council must approve any changes, though it's not clear when they will consider the recommendations. But at least one council member told the newspaper that he planned to introduce a resolution with some of the report's ideas.

"We have to get control of large-scale events like South by Southwest," council member Mike Martinez said.

But Bill Miller, a spokesman for South by Southwest, called the report "incomplete."

"We feel that it is incomplete for what it is intended to accomplish and does not address many of the root issues," Miller said.

More: Austin report on South by Southwest

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