AUSTIN, Texas - Austin has reached 60 homicides breaking the city’s record for the most homicides in one year.
Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon says the city has not seen numbers like this since the 1980s. "This is the highest number that we've ever had in our recorded history. The highest number coming in 1984 previously in which we had 59 [homicides]," he said.
This weekend's back-to-back homicides brought the City of Austin to a total of 60 homicides. Compared to 2020 around this time of year, murders are up by 74%.
As an officer, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says it is frustrating to see the city break this record.
"Makes you feel like you're not doing your job or doing the best you can do, but I know that our officers are. I think we have a very high clearance for a big city, so a lot of these cases are getting solved which will be locked up for the district attorney to prosecute," said Casaday.
With a little over three months left in the year, the number of homicides is expected to continue to grow. Cary Roberts with the Greater Austin Crime Commission says this is a trend being seen nationwide, but it's concerning for Austin because it's been 37 years since the city has seen numbers this high at this point of the year.
"We've already gone past not only what we had last year with 48 homicides, but we now have gone past that as the modern historical number of 59 [homicides] so we can expect to see even more homicides in the final three months of the year," said Roberts.
Chief Chacon is attributing the sharp rise in homicides to staffing shortages, an increase in gun crime, and certain individuals being released on PR bonds.
"We have a number of offenders that had previously been arrested, have been released from jail on Personal Recognizance Bonds, and are recommitting violent offenses. I think that's something that we as a community and as a criminal justice system overall really have to look at and determine whether we're making the most appropriate choices in some of these individuals and how can we reform that if necessary to keep our community safe," said Chief Chacon.
The Austin Police Department has added two additional officers to its homicide unit in response bringing the unit up to 14. However, Chief Chacon says it'll take the entire community to work together to stop this trend.
"Call the police. Please help us to catch these offenders to make sure that they are taken into custody and that they ultimately can be held to account for these acts of violence," said Chief Chacon.
The Chief says of those 60 homicides so far, 49 have been solved.
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