“It's sad to see people being victimized,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
FOX 7 Austin examined the city’s homicide data for the past twenty years, pulling numbers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Austin Police Department homicide reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the City of Austin. 43 is the greatest number of homicides the city has experienced over the past two decades. At the same time, the city experienced a population increase.
Our analysis shows a 13 percent decline in the homicide rate per 100,000 since 2000 and a 10 percent decrease in the homicide rate since 2010, but a 75 percent increase in the homicide rate since 2015. For 2019 to 2020, FOX 7 Austin used population projection data from the City of Austin and found a 32 percent increase in rate. It is important to note there are still two months left in the year.
“I really contribute a lot of it to the new wave of not wanting to prosecute,” said Casaday.
The 2019 Department of Public Safety “Crime in Texas” report shows that almost 79 percent of people convicted of felony offenses in Travis County had been previously convicted of a felony offense.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Austin Mayor Steve Adler for comment on the data Saturday. Adler was not available. On October 18, he told FOX 7 Austin “the suggestion that Austin is a dangerous city is just flat out wrong.”
This year Austin City Council cut Austin police funding up to $150 million. More than $20 million previously dedicated to unfilled positions, overtime and cadet classes was cut immediately. Three upcoming cadet classes were canceled. This summer Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the reduction to the department's overtime budget meant the department would be unable to backfill overtime in 2021.
The department is moving officers from specialized units to patrol to compensate. Under a preliminary plan, a unit in charge of patrolling the City’s parks, the street gangs unit, and an area task force would be dissolved. Other specialized units would experience significant cuts as officers are placed on patrol.
"That's absolutely not sufficient for a city this size. We should be growing. This city is booming." said Casaday, adding that the department is currently "struggling" with staffing. A City of Austin Public information request filed by FOX 7 Austin confirmed that by October 1, 77 officers had filed for retirement in 2020.
“We find that a better corollary to public safety is not the number of officers, it's the programs that we run to help reduce crime,” Adler told FOX 7 Austin on October 18.