Burglaries from Vehicles—Where and Why

The holiday shopping season is beginning, and that means extra precautions for gift items left in vehicles in shopping mall parking lots. Unfortunately, each holiday season, thieves steal items out of vehicles at the mall. For that reason, the holidays are an especially important time to get in the habit of locking your car doors and putting items in the trunk.

car on Austin 2bWhile that is sound advice, the Georgetown Police Department has some surprising data on where burglaries from vehicles are occurring and why. Most incidents are not happening at shopping malls and at businesses in Georgetown.

In the first nine months of 2015, two thirds of the burglaries from vehicles in Georgetown happened when the vehicle was parked at a house or apartment. Only 24 percent of the incidents happened at a mall or other commercial location.

Given that most burglaries from vehicles are happening when the car is parked at someone’s residence, how are they occurring?

For the 92 residential burglaries of vehicles that happened in January through October of this year, 74 percent were from an unlocked vehicle. Overall, 63 percent of the burglaries from vehicles in 2015 were from unlocked vehicles.

The surprising fact that emerges is that many people don’t lock their vehicles while at home. However, this is where thieves are most likely to steal items from cars.

Lt. Jim Seals says that officers and volunteers have contacted many businesses in the city to make them aware of the vehicle burglary trends. “We’ve contacted every bank in town and also have talked to the hotels and most of the restaurants,” says Seals.

Two years ago the Police Department started an intensified effort to reduce burglaries from vehicles. There were 332 incidents in 2013 and only 134 in 2014. In 2015 there were 57 burglaries of vehicles from January through June. However, in the month of September there were 34 incidents, which is the highest monthly total since July 2013.

Lt. Seals says, “We’ve reached out to businesses in Georgetown to make them aware of the issue. Hotels, restaurants, and apartment complexes close to I-35 seem to be a target for thieves since there is an easy escape route. Now we need to get the word to residents.”

Locking your car door when you’re at the mall, at a business, and also at home is the key to reducing this crime, says Lt. Seals.

“It takes less than 60 seconds for a thief to enter your vehicle and be gone with anything you leave—your wallet, credit cards, computer, cell phone, garage door opener or anything of value,” says Ray Dorton, a volunteer with Citizens on Patrol. “Should you leave your garage door opener in the vehicle the criminal can take it and come back later, break into your home thus allowing yourself to become a victim for a second time.”

The simple habit of locking your car door, no matter where you are, can greatly reduce the chances that you’ll be the next victim.

Concrete Analysis on Austin Avenue Bridges

deck core 2b webThis week technicians with WJE, an engineering and materials science firm, took samples of concrete from the Austin Avenue Bridges over the San Gabriel River.

Using a small drilling machine, non-destructive core samples were taken from the bridge deck and the bridge support structures. Ground penetrating radar technology also is being used to determine the condition of piers, foundations, and abutments to the bridges.

The core samples and radar results will be analyzed in a lab to determine the properties of the concrete and reinforced structures of the bridge.

Results of the testing will be reviewed by engineers with Aguirre and Fields and engineers for the City. Aguirre and Fields is working for the City to assess the bridges and develop options for repair or replacement.

Next year the City will hold meetings for public input on the design of the new Austin Avenue Bridges.

support core 1bThe City Council will consider this public input and is expected to decide on a bridge replacement option later next year.

Design work on the bridges will likely begin later in 2016 or in 2017. Construction work on new bridges could take 12 to 24 months.

A weight limit was placed on the bridges last year following a structural assessment by the Texas Department of Transportation. The maximum gross weight for each bridge is 48,000 pounds or 24 tons. The weight limit for a tandem axle on a vehicle is 21,000 pounds or 10.5 tons.

Georgetown Re-certified a Scenic City

Scenic City gold logo For the second time in five years, Georgetown was recently certified as a gold-level Scenic City by Scenic Texas. Georgetown was initially certified as a gold-level Scenic City in 2010 and was one of 20 cities to be certified or re-certified this summer.

Georgetown is one of 58 cities in Texas to be certified as a Scenic City. Georgetown was presented with its Gold Scenic City Certification on September 24 at the Texas Municipal League annual conference in San Antonio.

The Scenic City Certification Program incorporates a comprehensive set of model standards for design and development of public roadways and public spaces into a cohesive assessment program. The program draws a direct correlation between the success of a city’s economic development efforts and the visual appearance of its public spaces and recognizes municipalities that implement high-quality scenic standards.

The Scenic City program includes a variety of criteria such as parkland designation, landscaping, historic preservation, sign restrictions, litter prevention, and other standards for public places. Achieving the Scenic City certification recognizes regulations and programs that improve property values and help to attract new businesses. Cities that qualify earn a five-year certification.

“Georgetown’s Scenic City Certification demonstrates its commitment to high-quality standards for public roadways and public spaces,” said Anne Culver, executive director of the Scenic City Certification Program. “This enhances Georgetown’s image which in turn drives economic development.”

Scenic City group 1b web

City employees who contributed to the Scenic City certification effort are (pictured left to right): Laurie Brewer, Kimberly Garrett, Jackson Daly, Nat Waggoner, Julie Dominguez, Karen Frost, and Mike Stasny.

Scenic Texas, the sponsor of the certification program, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the visual character of Texas by promoting enhanced design standards for public projects, sign regulation, freeway landscaping, and scenic byway development. Find out more at www.scenictexas.org.

Call for Volunteers: Boards & Commissions

The City of Georgetown is recruiting highly qualified and dedicated individuals to serve on one of Georgetown’s Advisory Boards or Commissions. The City Council depends on citizen board members to assist in evaluating local issues to enrich and promote the community.

For more information regarding the variety of boards and commissions and their roles in City government, please visit https://georgetown.org/council-boards-agendas/. Applications can also be found on this page.

If you are interested in serving as a board member, please complete an application. You may also attach a resume (no more than 2 pages).   You may print and complete an application, or choose to use the online application process. Printed applications should be mailed to:

Mayor Ross & the City Council
P.O. Box 409
Georgetown, TX 78627


The deadline to submit an application is January 8, 2016. Board and Commission appointments are made in February. New members begin serving in March.

Please contact the City Secretary’s office at (512) 930-3651 with any questions.

Updated: Mosquito Samples Positive for West Nile Virus in 78628

Updated 2015/10/29: New maps added; Areas have been sprayed Wednesday and Thursday mornings and will be sprayed Friday morning (Oct 30), weather permitting.

Mosquito samples collected last week from two locations in the 78628 zip code in Georgetown have tested positive for West Nile Virus. The two positive tests were indicated in lab results received yesterday afternoon from the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin.

The samples were collected in traps on October 20. The species of mosquito that tested positive for West Nile Virus was Culex quinquefasciatus, also known as the Southern house mosquito. This species of mosquito has a flight range of about one mile.

Due to the number of children and adults who will be outside in the evening for trick-or-treating on Saturday, the City is implementing insecticide spraying in the vicinity of positive samples. (See maps of spray areas at right. Click on the maps to see a larger version.) A City vehicle will use a permethrin-based insecticide along the street right-of-way and in public parks from 1 to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, weather permitting. The use of the insecticide is to reduce the adult mosquito population in the area. The City is developing a schedule with details on neighborhoods where spraying will be done and will publicize that schedule as soon as it is available.

The mosquito sampling and control effort is part of a county-wide program each year by the Williamson County and Cities Health District to trap and test the insects for West Nile Virus. The City of Georgetown participates with the health district in the program.

The City also continues to use larvicide tablets to treat standing water found on public property. “Every week in the warmer months, our employees are putting larvicide disks in standing water on public property,” says Ed Polasek, transportation services director. “We really need residents to help us by draining pans and flower pots and putting larvicide disks in puddles or ponds on private property.”

There have been no reports of human cases of West Nile Virus in Williamson County this year.

“With the recent rains and warm days ahead, I don’t expect our mosquito populations to drop for several weeks,” says Catherine Zettel Nalen, integrated mosquito management program specialist with WCCHD.

The City and the health district remind residents to practice the Four Ds to reduce the risk of bites or WNV exposure:

  • Dawn and Dusk are the times to try to stay indoors since those are times mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Drain standing water in flower pots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.
  • Defend by using an EPA-approved insect repellent.

Eliminating places where mosquitoes can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the best lines of defense against exposure to West Nile virus.

For more information on West Nile Virus, go to the WCCHD website at wcchd.org or visit the Texas Department of State Health Services West Nile website at txwestnile.org.

Formula 1 Driver Tries Police Driving Course

Millions of fans across the world will be watching the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race at the Circuit of the Americas course in Austin this weekend. Driver Valtteri Bottas, a Finnish 26-year old on the Williams Martini Racing team, is currently fifth in the Formula 1 standings.

Bottas and City group webBefore the big race day on Sunday, Bottas came to Georgetown where he tested his skills on a driving track for training police officers.

Bottas was invited to Georgetown several weeks ago by Karen Gilbert, a volunteer at the Georgetown Police Department and a huge fan of Formula 1. Gilbert contacted Bottas through a fan website and was surprised when he agreed to come.

“I invited him to come and play cop for a day,” says Gilbert, who mentioned the tactical training building and the driving track at the Public Safety Operations and Training Center.

Bottas arrived in Georgetown Tuesday morning where he was greeted by police officers and City officials. Then Sgt. Wyatt Raley put Bottas through his paces in training exercises at the tactical building.

Bottas and car front 1 webBottas also tested his skills driving a police patrol vehicle on the driving track. After a test run with Officer Casey Horsley, Bottas drove the course with sharp turns and obstacles and set a new course record of 1 minute and 36 seconds.

A crew with Off the Grid, an NBCSN TV show about Formula 1, filmed Bottas’ visit to Georgetown and his run on the driving track. The segment will be part of an Off the Grid show about the Austin Formula 1 race that will air on NBCSN on November 11.

Captain Evelyn McLean with the Police Department said one of the goals in inviting Valtteri Bottas to meet with officers at the facility was to give him a picture of what it’s like to be a police officer. Bottas told McLean that spending the day with police officers gave him a new perspective on the job they do. “Like driving in a Formula 1 race, we have to make decisions in a split second and make those decisions accurately,” says McLean.

Bottas and officers on track webBottas is back in Austin and preparing for the practice sessions at Circuit of the Americas on Friday and a qualifying session on Saturday.

When Bottas races at 2 p.m. on Sunday, he is likely to have some new fans in blue from Georgetown cheering him on.

(Photos by Amanda Chron, Georgetown Police Department)

Collectible Ornament Sale: Southwestern Cullen Building

2015 ornament Cullen webA limited-edition collectible brass Christmas ornament featuring the historic Cullen Building at Southwestern University is now on sale. The cost of the ornament is $20, tax included. The ninth annual ornament sale is a project of the Georgetown Main Street Program.

The Cullen Building was constructed between 1898 and 1900 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Romanesque limestone building at Maple Street and University Avenue is a landmark in Georgetown.

Known over the years as Old Main and the Administration “Ad” Building, the Cullen Building was renovated in the 1970s and again in 2012, and is now home to University administration offices and a number of classrooms. The building was renamed the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in 1977 after funds from the Cullen Foundation of Houston enabled the university to complete the first major renovation of the building.

Cullen Building ornaments can be purchased at the Visitors Center, 103 W. Seventh Street or at the Art Center, 816 S. Main Street. Only 325 of the limited-edition ornaments are available. Ornaments typically sell out each year. Payments by cash, check, or credit are accepted.

All proceeds from the ornament sale fund Main Street projects and Façade Fund Grant Program.

FM 1460 Project Breaks Ground

Mayor Ross and Greg Malatek b webConstruction on the Farm to Market 1460 project officially started today at a groundbreaking ceremony with local, state, and federal officials. The two-year project by the Texas Department of Transportation involves building a four-lane road in the 3.5 mile segment from Quail Valley Drive to University Boulevard.

FM 1460 is a key north-south arterial between Georgetown and Round Rock. Currently FM 1460 is a two-lane road with no shoulders.

The new four-lane road with turn lanes will provide increased safety and mobility between the hospitals and higher education facilities in Round Rock and residential and employment areas in Georgetown.

The new four lane highway also will provide a north-south alternate and reliever to Interstate 35. When it is completed, FM 1460 will be a four-lane road from Austin Avenue in Georgetown to U.S. 79 in Round Rock where continues as the four-lane A.W. Grimes Boulevard to the 45 Toll Road.

shovels 2b web

Georgetown residents voted to approve transportation bonds in 2008 authorizing funding for the project.

The total cost of the project is $34.7 million, including design and engineering, environmental clearances, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocations, and construction. The total includes $13 million from the City of Georgetown, $11.4 million in federal funding, $7.8 million in state funding, and $2.6 million from the City of Round Rock and Williamson County.

Call for Arts and Culture Grant Proposals

The Georgetown Arts and Culture Board invites grant proposals for art, music, theatre, and cultural heritage events or projects to take place in Georgetown between December 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016. The total budget for grants is $20,000. Recent grants have averaged $2,000 apiece. Nonprofit organizations, schools, and informal arts and culture organizations are eligible to apply.

Proposals should be no more than 2 pages long and include:

  • Purpose and description of the event or project
  • Amount being requested and total budget, including other anticipated funding sources (e.g., donations, ticket sales, other grants)
  • Date, location, admission charge, and anticipated attendance
  • Size and demographic makeup of past audiences or participants
  • Contact information (phone and email) for someone who is readily available to answer questions about the proposal

Special consideration will be given for events or projects that meet one or more of these criteria:

  • Are free and open to the public
  • Include outreach to populations that are traditionally underrepresented
  • Have a cultural tourism or economic impact (e.g., events that may attract people who also attend other arts & culture venues or events, stay overnight, shop, or dine in Georgetown)

Organizations that receive funding will be required to follow up by:

  • Recognizing the City of Georgetown Arts and Culture Board in their advertising and programs
  • Submitting a one-page report to the Arts and Culture Board no later than Oct. 1, 2016, with a description of the use of grant funds and copies of event promotion materials

The deadline for grant proposals is 5 pm on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. Organizations will be notified by email about funding decisions by November 30.

Submit grant proposals to Lawren Weiss, Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth Street, Georgetown, TX, 78626, or by email to Lawren.Weiss@georgetown.org.

Applicants who have questions about the grant process should contact Library Director Eric Lashley at 512-930-3551 or Eric.Lashley@georgetown.org.

Wind Turbines Powering Georgetown

Wind turbines are providing for Georgetown’s energy needs three months ahead of schedule. The Spinning Spur 3 wind farm near Amarillo, which was projected to start producing electricity in January, became operational September 28. The wind plant is now providing energy to meet most of Georgetown’s daily power needs, positioning Georgetown on the path to a 100 percent renewable energy goal.

The Spinning Spur 3 wind farm owned by EDF Renewable Energy produces 194 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 58,200 homes annually. Georgetown’s 20-year contract is for 144 megawatts.

The 18,000 acre Spinning Spur 3 plant has 97 wind turbines, each of which produces 2 megawatts of power, or enough to power 600 homes annually. Electricity generated at the Spinning Spur 3 wind farm is sent to Georgetown via transmission lines.

The grid will ensure a constant power supply to Georgetown if the turbines are not online, but on most days, Georgetown’s energy needs will be supplied by the wind plant. When a solar plant comes online at the end of 2016, Georgetown will have enough power under contract to serve the entire demand for the utility.

In March, the City of Georgetown announced that the municipal electric utility will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2017. The utility will be powered by the EDF Renewable Energy wind plant and a SunEdison solar farm that will be constructed near Fort Stockton next year.