Austin Police Department to establish property crimes task force

When Austin city leaders approved the budget for the next year, they granted the funds to establish a new property crimes task force. A dozen officers will do nothing but pursue top burglary and theft suspects.

In this week's Crimewatch, FOX 7's Noelle Newton explains the impact this could have on the city.

Hutson Heller walks an APD crime scene technician around his car. Someone broke out the passenger side window and stole a backpack that was sitting in the passenger seat. Heller lists out the contents.

Last year more than 36,000 people called police to report being the victims of property crime.

So far this year, officers have investigated 23,000 cases. Top offenses include burglary of vehicle, burglary of residence, non-residence and auto theft.

"Our department is, you know, the second safest city in America when it comes to violent crimes, but when it comes to property crimes we don't fare as well," said Assistant Chief Troy Gay.

Assistant Chief Troy Gay is referring to a 2013 FBI list. Out of 33 cities with populations of 500 thousand or higher, Austin ranked 21st for property crime.

Gay says the department has found a way to improve those statistics.

"We're going to assign 10 officers, a corporal and a sergeant to form a new property crimes taskforce," he said.

Gay says the property crimes taskforce will use technology to identify top offenders and tactics including surveillance and tracking devices to put them in jail.

"You always look at 10 percent of criminals really commit 90 percent of the crime. So if we really focus and look at the data and we can identify who those 10 percent are it should have a huge impact on our city," said Gay.

Back in Central Austin, Heller has been informed that the crime scene tech did not find any prints.

Heller is not too optimistic he will get his items back or that the burglar will be arrested.

"I mean, I imagine it's like trying to stomp out fire ants. You can't get them all and then more just crop up," said Heller.

Gay feels that will change as soon as the taskforce goes to work.

"I'm excited about it. I think it will really, really make a dent," said Gay.

The department must wait until the next cadet class has graduated until the task force can start. They should be fully active by January of 2017.