APD interim chief addresses safety concerns amid staffing shortage

In the past year, it has taken Austin police officers hours to show up to some 911 calls. The Interim Austin Police Chief said the department is working to keep people safe while short-staffed. 

Officers met with people in the community Tuesday night during the annual National Night Out. Austin Interim Chief of Police Robin Henderson said they value community engagement, but they’re busy.

"I've actually had to call 911 twice," UT student Abinaya Kannapiran said.

Henderson said the department is short-staffed.

"We’re in a staffing crisis."

In the past year, FOX 7 has reported several 911 callers have had to wait hours for law enforcement to show up. However, Kannapiran said her calls were responded to quickly.

"They were very good in terms of getting details and I did see the cop car show up immediately, and they followed up with me days later, so that was really nice," Kannapiran said.

"They are hustling, and they're busy, and they really would want to make those community connections and of course when times allow, they do, but also understand that a lot of times they are super, super busy," Henderson said.

National Night Out is an opportunity for law enforcement to get the know the community. Local organizations shared information about drug prevention and crime deterring efforts to keep residents safe.

"Being alone can be really scary sometimes so just having those figures around to be there when you need it is really helpful," Kannapiran said.

Just last month, many in the Austin community became confused about when to call 311 versus 911 due to a social media post by police. Henderson clarified by saying if you need help, call 911.

"Rather than them compromise their safety or a crime does not get reported, it's better to just call 911 if they just don't know, and it will get routed appropriately," Henderson said.

APD said the event warns criminals that residents are informed and vigilant.