Most Austin homicide suspects, victims have prior criminal offenses: report

While Austin's homicide rate has gone down over the last couple of years, it's still higher than the state and national average and higher than pre-pandemic levels.

That’s according to data analyzed in a new report. The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) partnered with the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) and Austin Police Department (APD) to conduct the Gun Violence Problem Analysis (GVPA).

"While Austin continues to have a relatively low rate of shootings and homicides for a city its size, the significant increase in shooting incidents following the COVID-19 pandemic was alarming," the report reads. 

The data in the analysis will help inform work that the Office of Violence Prevention is already doing to create a community-wide violence prevention "ecosystem."

"That's why we do this type of data analysis to understand what's happening and then use that information to design our interventions," said Michelle Myles, manager of the Office of Violence Prevention. 

One example of ongoing work is ATX Peace,  a community violence intervention program that takes a holistic approach to addressing violence.

"I think that what we know from other cities, as well as what we know about what's happening early here in the development of these programs in Austin, is that community violence intervention programs that follow the cure violence model and treat gun violence like a public health epidemic do work," said Shelli Egger, an attorney with Texas Legal Services Center. "Those programs have been shown to have a lot more long term success than our traditional criminal justice strategies, which really do just sort of treat the system as a revolving door without addressing the underlying problems that led to the violence happening in the first place."


Looking at homicides in Austin from 2021 to 2022, with most being gun-related, researchers found that victims and suspects of homicides were primarily males aged 18–34 years old. Homicides most often happened as a result of "instant disputes" between individuals who didn't have a prior relationship.

Nearly 54% of victims and suspects were white, nearly 43% were black and about 32% of victims and suspects were Hispanic. 

"Compared to representation in the population overall, black individuals are overwhelmingly overrepresented as homicide victims and suspects," the report noted.

Analyzed data also showed that more than 60% of homicide victims and suspects were already known to the criminal justice system. Most victims and suspects with prior criminal offenses had been arrested around 10 times by the time of the homicide.

"In an effort to combat that, the interventions that we do are tailored to speak to the needs of repeat offenders," said Myles.

From gathered data, the report also suggests there are at least 13 different groups or gangs that are most actively involved in recent gun violence in Austin, with around 17 percent of homicide suspects known to be associated with a group or gang.

The analysis notes that "although this study was an exhaustive examination of homicides, due to the limited access NICJR was given to non-fatal shootings and criminal histories, further analysis is warranted."

Going forward, NICJR will create new recommendations for the City of Austin based on data gathered in the analysis.