AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Governor Greg Abbott is pushing to establish state control of policing in some areas of Austin.
“Because Austin is the capital of Texas, because there's people who come across the state, across the country, across the entire globe to Austin, Texas. The area around the capitol must be safe.” Abbott told FOX 7 Austin Wednesday.
Abbott told FOX 7 Austin he is eyeing an area that stretches from “the river to 32nd Street,” encompassing the University of Texas at Austin's campus and from I-35 to either “Lamar or MoPac.”
Abbott said, “We would take money from the City of Austin to pay for it.” FOX 7 Austin reached out to Abbott’s office for clarity on the statement he made live during the station’s 5 p.m. newscast.
“So, within that square area, we wanna make sure that is safe and secure from the type of crime that Austin is causing an increase of," Abbott said.
This year Austin has experienced more homicides than it has in the past twenty years, something Abbott blames on the City government, which recently opted to cut up to $150 million, with $20 million cut immediately from its police department.
“It would be outrageous anytime to defund the police, make our communities less safe, but as you have reported at a time when we see an increase in murders, an increase in other types of crime to then continue efforts to defund the police," Abbott said.
FOX 7 Austin’s analysis shows the homicide rate per 100,000 has decreased 13 percent over the past two decades. In 2015 we saw a spike, a rate increase of 75 percent. This year, the rate has increased 32 percent, with two months left until the new year.
Monday, Austin Police Lieutenant Jeff Greenwalt said he does not believe the recent uptick in crime is related to the department's budget cuts.
“As far as the 2020 numbers, we saw a rise in violent crime in the very early months of 2020 before the reimagining, the defunding conversations came up,” Greenwalt said.
Greenwalt added that the homicide unit was not directly impacted by the cuts. Still, he said he is worried about what may happen in 2021. As the cuts take full effect, many officers are forecasted to move out of specialized units, such as sex offender apprehension and registration, street gangs, and career criminals, and back onto patrol.
“Those units, they're there for a reason,” he said.