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Austin, TX Defunded Police, Police Chief: ‘Crisis,’ Homicide Rate ‘We’ve Never Really Seen Here Before’

Austin, TX Defunded Police, Police Chief: ‘Crisis,’ Homicide Rate ‘We’ve Never Really Seen Here Before’

The interim police chief of Austin, Texas, declared that his department is in the midst of a what he called “dire” situation that was a “crisis” due to the defunding efforts that denuded the department’s coffers of $150 million.

“Last summer, the Austin City Council voted to defund the police department by $150 million, which resulted in canceling multiple cadet classes and disbanding multiple units responsible for responding to DWIs, domestic violence calls, stalking, and criminal interdiction,” The Center Square noted.Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon revealed that the response times to 911 calls have slowed to 20-30 minutes on average, adding that the homicide rate has reached numbers “we’ve never really seen here before.” Chacon added that he has contacted “each council member to explain the dire situation we are in. And I’m going to call it a crisis, because that’s what it is, and they all get it.”

Chacon delineated how responses to “P0” calls, which comprise shootings, stabbings, rape, and domestic violence in progress, have averaged nine minutes and two seconds while “P1” calls, in which the assailant is still in the area, have averaged 10 minutes and 41 seconds, and both of those average response times might be too late for the victims. He attributed the slower response times to an understaffed force, as 15-20 officers have left the force each month; he contended that the current number of employees is “not sustainable.”

“The department is projecting 235 vacancies by May 2022, and 340 vacancies by May 2023.” The Center Square noted.Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly agreed with Chacon that the situation is critical, telling KXAN. “We need to have more police officers in order to get to scenes quicker.”

After the Austin City Council voted to defund the police in August 2020, theTexas Municipal Police Association, the largest law enforcement association in Texas, took out billboards reading, “Warning! Austin Police Defunded. Enter At Your Own Risk!”

The advocacy group Save Austin Now has filed a petition for a public safety law that would require two police officers per 1,000 citizens. The group states on its website:

Austin doesn’t feel as safe recently. Because it isn’t. We’ve seen a series of city policy decisions over the last 2 years that have led to a surge in both violent crime and property crime against Austinites. A 300% increase in murders this year. A double-digit increase in property crimes such as burglaries and carjackings. And a massive increase in reports of “soft crimes” that make us uncomfortable, especially us women. This isn’t the Austin we know and love, and it doesn’t have to be.

There is much work to be done, and our petition to restore safety to Austin is a critical first step. This citizen’s petition, if passed, will ensure that the city council and our police are held to account for public safety with an elected, director of police oversight; it will ensure that we have adequate police staffing and public safety funds cannot be chopped without Austinites’ input; it will ensure that officers receive double the training; it will ensure that our police officers are rewarded for committing to diversity. Public safety is nonpartisan but it is the most important thing we do together, as citizens.

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