What Happened To Murder Rates When Texas Police Was Funded

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Drivers heading south on US Route 183 in Austin, TX familiarized themselves with a notice board urging city police officers to relocate to Spokane, Wash. To become deputy sheriffs and collect a bonus of $ 15,000.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has Texas capital targeted, already in staffing crisis as homicide rates hit an all-time high, as well as other jurisdictions that have recently cut police budgets.

In the midst of the “defund the police” movement in 2020, Austin City Council slashed the police budget by about a third and ultimately lost 150 officers. In August, shortly before the city hit its all-time high for annual homicides, the council restored funding.

“Austin is an incredibly fast growing city. So we have more people coming. We lose about 15 police officers a month, ”Lars Trautman, national director of the Right on Crime program for the Austin-based think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Daily Signal.

“And now we have a giant billboard along one of our freeways from the Spokane Sheriff’s Department trying to get our police officers in,” Trautman said. “It’s definitely not something Austin residents like to see on their way to work in the morning.”

Austin City Council restored the police budget and then some, largely to comply with a new Texas law that withholds state aid from jurisdictions that fund their police forces.

But the Austin Police Department is still struggling with a staffing shortage.

The council’s budget cut last year reduced the number of officers from 1,949 to 1,809. However, as of Thursday, the Austin Police Department employed 1,612 officers, a police spokesperson said. at the Daily Signal.

The board voted 9-2 late Thursday night to confirm the department’s veteran Joseph Chacon, who is white, as the city’s new police chief over objections from NAACP leaders and other activists who favored one of two black candidates for the Los Angeles and Dallas forces.

Chacon, previously deputy chief, had served as interim chief for about six months when City Manager Spencer Cronk appointed him to the post on a permanent basis last week, the US statesman from Austin reported.

The newspaper reported that the council’s vote to confirm Chacon as leader came a day after he announced that the department would no longer answer certain calls due to limited staff, including burglary in cases where the intruder left the scene, as well as car theft, vandalism, and other thefts.

Homicide at the highest in 37 years

Austin’s homicide rate this year, with a population of over 950,000, is the highest in 61 years that such data has been available.

As of September 12, 60 homicides had occurred so far in 2021, more than in any full calendar year on record, according to statistics compiled by KVUE-TV, the Austin ABC affiliate, and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper using a combination of data local criminals and the FBI.

Austin’s homicide toll is the highest since 1984, which saw 59 murders throughout the calendar year. It is also up significantly from 48 homicides in 2020, 39 in 2019 and 35 in 2018.

From June 2020 to April 2021, the homicide rate in Austin rose 44% from the same period a year earlier, according to data from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a national group that provides legal defense for the police.

During the same period, police retirements increased by 65% ​​and resignations by 63%.

Crime began to rise across the country in the wake of protests and riots that followed the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, 2020.

Beyond funding, a decline in society’s support for the police has also led to the departure of officers, said Jason Johnson, chairman of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

Johnson notes that Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, a Democrat, who has jurisdiction over Austin, prioritize prosecution of the police.

“Violent crimes, homicides, non-fatal shootings, [and] car hijackings have increased in cities that target their police, ”Johnson told the Daily Signal. “Restoring funding does not restore a police service. Many officers leave these departments to self-preserve.

“Recruiting booming”

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, Trautman of the Texas Public Policy Foundation said, but studies show law enforcement agencies discourage homicides.

“When you have a city like Austin, which has cut its budget by a third in a year and has a continuing shortage of officers, certainly … common sense and research suggests that this could be related to the spike in homicides that we see it here, ”Trautman said.

Austin City Council, made up of 11 members voted unanimously last year to cut $ 21.5 million from the police budget and transferring an additional $ 128 million to other municipal departments, which resulted in the disbandment of some police units and the cancellation of cadet courses.

Mayor Steve Adler, also a council member, supported the budget cut. Council races are officially non-partisan, but Adler and the rest of the current council members are Democrats.

After Texas Gov. Greg Abott signed legislation in June to penalize municipalities that cut police funding, Austin City Council responded by voting for a $ 443 million police budget for fiscal 2022, up 43% from $ 309.7 million for fiscal 2021.

Over 20 other major cities across the United States cut their police budgets last year, notably in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Baltimore.

Police forces across the country, including the Austin Police Department, are working on recruiting.

“Across the country, recruiting law enforcement officers is very competitive, and DPA recruiting efforts stretch from coast to coast. We are currently advertising and recruiting in several major metropolitan areas across the country, ”the Austin police spokesperson said in an email to the Daily Signal, adding:

APD has always been at the forefront of recruiting and training the country’s most qualified candidates. Our recruiting efforts are in full swing for cadet classes starting in 2022. APD currently has an officer retention program focused on officers eligible for full retirement and is currently exploring other officer retention programs.

Throwing Spike into Crime

But pouring money into the city’s police department is unfortunate, said Kathy Mitchell, policy coordinator for Just Liberty, an activist group in Austin who has advocated cutting the police budget.

Higher crime rates, according to Mitchell, have little to do with fewer police officers.

“Some crimes have increased across the country. They have increased in cities that have reduced their budgets. They’ve increased in cities that haven’t cut budgets, ”Mitchell, also a member of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, told The Daily Signal.

“They’ve increased in cities that have very high police-to-population ratios, and they’ve increased in cities that don’t,” she said. “It is very clear that there is no relation [between] how many cops does a city have and what they’ve been doing in the last budget cycle to what’s happening to some crimes right now. “

In June, KVUE reported that violent crime in Austin has far exceeded the population, which has increased by 4% in the past five years, as of 2017.

Murder has seen a 200% increase over five years, KVUE found. Aggravated assault has increased 36% over five years and auto theft has increased 77%. Only burglaries fell by 9%.

Austin spends about $ 30 million on efforts to “reinvent” the police.

Last summer, the task force published a interim report who says, “The police do not and cannot prevent crime from happening.” In 2019, less than half of crimes in the United States were reported and less than half of those reported were solved. “

The Austin task force co-chairs are Paula X. Rojas of the Communities of Color group and Brion Oaks, who is Austin’s director of actions.

“Only 32.5% of household property crimes were reported and only 17.2% of reported property crimes were cleared,” the task force report said, adding:

Police do not spend most of their time dealing with violent crime. Less than 1% of the calls APD answers are related to violent crime. Even then, there is often little they can do by the time they arrive.

‘Crying and gnashing of teeth’

The money cut from the Austin police budget was used to hire paramedics and purchase ambulances and to open another shelter for victims of domestic violence, Mitchell said.

The 911 dispatch operation and forensic lab were temporarily separated from the police department, but were reconnected after the council restored funding, she said.

“The actual cuts last summer weren’t significant. There has been an overlap of divisions, ”Mitchell said, adding that a temporary police academy closure and routine retirements have resulted in staffing issues more than budget cuts.

“There is a tremendous amount of crying and gnashing of teeth in this town because for a very short time, thanks to lawsuits and complaints and huge attrition issues at the police academy, the town shut it down. temporarily, “she said. “Is that a reason to panic? Absolutely not.”

The council’s increase in police budget creates a new baseline, as state law – passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor – prevents cities and other jurisdictions in Texas from cutting funding policing as circumstances change.

“It has become a very strange fight where Tories who once believed in smaller government and less spending are doubling the most expensive type of staff to get the most out of things,” Mitchell said. “It’s a very strange place for the GOP to be done.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

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