57 arrests, 108 guns seized under APD’s Violence Intervention Program

More than 100 illegally-owned guns have been seized as part of the new Violence Intervention Program (VIP) at the Austin Police Department (APD).

In an update on Wednesday, Chief Joseph Chacon also said 57 arrests had been made, resulting in 158 gun-related or violence-related charges.

The Violence Intervention Program, launched in April 2021, is a multi-agency effort involving APD’s Organized and Violent Crime Divisions along with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

"It is highly focused on identification of our most prolific violent offenders that are using guns to commit violent crime," said Chief Chacon.

Chief Chacon said he was concerned specifically about two types of violent crime in Austin - homicides and aggravated assault. He also noted the number of robberies occurring in Austin involving guns. 

"It is incredibly important that we take an active role in getting illegally-owned firearms off the street and to hold those that are doing the harm accountable," said Chacon.

Chief Chacon called their strategy an "intelligence-led, evidence-based kind of approach." The goal is to pinpoint the most violent and prolific offenders, arrest them and then work closely with either local or federal prosecutors. 

On Wednesday, Chief Chacon said the VIP will specifically be expanding to direct more resources towards the downtown entertainment district. According to APD, since January there have been seven incidents involving guns in downtown, with a total of 21 people injured or killed. Approximately 55 firearms have been seized just in that area since January as well. 

"This is an area that is densely packed in the evenings on the weekends and has seen more than its share of violent crime in recent months," said Chief Chacon.

APD will be adding additional officers to patrol the downtown streets and directing more officers to monitor the public safety camera system. 

Simultaneously, APD will be collaborating with the new Office of Violence Prevention which falls under Austin Public Health.

"We want to provide data and any other assistance that we can to address root causes of violent behavior and to help mitigate and prevent trauma in our community," said Chacon.

The goal of the OVP is to "apply a public health approach utilizing an equity lens to develop interventions that prevent violence and support our community," according to program manager Michelle Myles in a previous statement provided to FOX 7. Myles was hired in June to help launch and oversee the program.

Chief Chacon also addressed a staffing shortage in his update on Wednesday, calling it a "crisis." He said some officers have been moved from specialized units back to patrol, and APD currently has about 150 positions that are vacant.

"That has me greatly concerned, because as I reduce those specialized areas, it makes it very difficult and it’s not good for our overall crime rate in Austin."

Chief Chacon said he is considering a push to re-hire those that have recently resigned or incentivizing police officers eligible to retire to stay on longer.

In the meantime, he said they are managing to maintain proper staffing throughout the city while increasing staffing downtown.

The Violence Intervention Program will last at least through Aug. 31, at which point APD will reevaluate. Those with any information on owners of illegal guns are asked to call APD or Crimestoppers at 512-472-TIPS. 
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