City of Austin in need of more police officers, medics

The City of Austin needs more police officers and medics, but city representatives were not present at a public safety meeting with the Austin Police Department and Austin-Travis County EMS.

On Monday, the public safety board held a meeting to receive an update from City of Austin public safety departments. 

In it, Austin police revealed in 2021 they responded to 766 aggravated assaults, but this year that number went up to 908. Crimes against property are also up with burglaries up by 13%, pick pocketing by 84%, and purse snatching up by 200%

"Aggravated assaults are the most concerning for the department at this point and this trend indicated continued growth," said Dr. Jonathan Kringen, Research and Planning for the Austin Police Department.

As for response time, APD is about two and a half minutes behind its goal, taking around 10 and a half minutes to respond to emergency calls. APD is attributing that number to its staffing shortage. 

"We are at 1,809 authorized sworn staff. We actually have 1600 working officers. That's 209 vacancies," Dr. Kringen.

APD is not the only department facing staffing issues. According to Selena Xie, President of Austin EMS Association, ATCEMS is seeing a 25% staffing shortage. 

She believes part of that is due to the around $19 wage medics are being paid when they start. The city is currently negotiating a raise.

"We are really increasing our responsibilities and really taking on the issues that the city council really cares about including mental health first response, but unfortunately we can’t accomplish many of these things because we are so short-staffed," said Xie.

The Public Safety Commission approved a recommendation to urge the Austin City Council to consider a higher wage for EMS workers.

At the public safety meeting, commissioners addressed that no City of Austin representative was present to provide comment to what was presented or to negotiate solutions.

"I do consider [the city] not coming to this discussion a slap in the face for the work, specifically EMS, has done over the last few years with this pandemic," said Rocky Lane, Public Safety Commissioner.

Commissioners say the city was not present at this meeting because they were in a different meeting discussing the EMS wage.