City reports drop in violent crime in first week of increased Texas DPS presence

The City of Austin says that violent crime numbers have dropped during the first week of the Austin Police Department's partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

According to the city, the number of violent crimes has dropped 25 percent from the average weekly number of violent crimes for the past year. In 2022, there was an average of 89 violent crimes a week, versus 67 in the first week of the partnership.

Also in areas where DPS officers were specifically deployed due to a high volume of calls for assistance, APD says it recorded a 58 percent reduction in violent crime.

Violent crimes include aggravated assault, murder, sexual assault, and robbery.

Some Austin residents are concerned about the Texas DPS’ increased presence in Austin. Others said the help is needed.

In March, City of Austin leaders announced a plan for Texas DPS to assist the Austin Police Department while they’re short-staffed.

"We may have hit rock bottom at this point now because we’ve got some help," Austin Police Retired Officers Association President Dennis Farris said.

Governor Greg Abbott requested Texas DPS assist Austin PD through the creation of the Austin Violent Crimes Task Force. This came after the street takeovers in Austin. A Texas DPS spokesperson said the task force has already stopped three large-scale street takeover events across the city.

"I think that this was coming regardless of whether the city of Austin agreed to it," Farris said.

City leaders said Texas DPS troopers and special agents would help APD with violent crime and traffic issues and provide backup during emergency situations.

"The idea that DPS is going to come in here and just overpower the city is just a false narrative," Farris said.

Some Austin residents are worried because of the lack of information on the front end.

"One of our chief concerns with this so-called partnership is the absolute lack of transparency about the partnership itself and lack of accountability measures that community members in Austin have to hold DPS to account when the state’s police is on the city’s streets," ACLU of Texas Staff Attorney Savannah Kumar said.

A Texas DPS spokesperson broke down what troopers have done from March 30 to April 3:

  • Made more than 1,500 traffic stops
  • Wrote 765 citations
  • Worked 15 crash investigations
  • Made 83 arrests
  • Seized 11 guns
  • Recovered 6 stolen vehicles
  • Seized 174 grams of cocaine, 40 grams of heroin, and 127,415 grams of methamphetamine.

In that same time period, APD said they wrote 223 citations.

"What DPS is doing is what APD did before when they could proactively police where they weren’t running call to call," Farris said.

Kumar said they’ll be digging into the numbers to understand the partnership’s basis and is worried because of Texas DPS’ history.

"We don’t have to look far to see that there was a lack of or there was actually deadly mismanagement during the Uvalde shooting and then in the aftermath of that, a lack of transparency about how decisions were made and what was the cause of the decisions,’ Kumar said. ‘We’ve also seen that there is significant evidence that DPS has engaged in racial profiling as well."

City council members have also requested a briefing on the partnership at Tuesday’s work session to provide, "communities transparency and full understanding of how this partnership will work to uphold Austin’s values."

Farris, a retired APD officer who served on the force for 25 years said the help from DPS is needed.

"Realistically all DPS is doing at this point right now is getting us back to where we were before and that’s not a bad thing,’ Farris said. ‘Austin has got to get their police numbers up."

When the announcement about the partnership was made, APD had 281 vacancies.

The Interim Assistant City Manager, Bruce Mills, said: "We are one week into our partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety and already are experiencing a positive impact with higher visibility of police presence and lower response times. Chief Chacon is developing a dashboard to track data and quantify the impact of the DPS support, which will be most informative when we have at least a few weeks’ worth of information to be able to compare. In the meantime, we appreciate the extra support which has provided much-needed relief to Austin Police officers as we continue to address staffing shortages. This past weekend particularly, with many high-profile events happening around Austin and an influx of visitors, we benefited from the partnership and look forward to continuing to work together to keep Austinites safe through this busy spring festival season and beyond."

City Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said she delivered a memo with questions to Mills in advance of the council briefing on April 18.