‘Enter at your own risk’: Murders in police-defunded Austin, Texas have already tied the number from last year

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AUSTIN, TX- Another Democrat-run, police-defunded city is facing an explosion in crime, this time in Austin, Texas.

With nearly five full months remaining in the year, the number of homicides in the city has already matched the number from all of last year, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

Last Tuesday, police identified two people who were killed earlier this month—22-year-old Dyvyne Ware and 23-year-old Nikolas Eugenio Martinez. Their deaths brought the number of people killed feloniously in Texas’ capital city to 48, Austin police said.

Prior to last year, Austin had not seen such a high number of killings since the 1990s. Since 1985 when a total of 52 people were killed in the city, the number dropped to 40 in 1997 and stayed below that number for 20 years. In 2019, Austin recorded 36 homicides the most since 2016.

According to police Lt. Brett Bailey, who serves in the homicide and aggravated assault unit, he had previously told the outlet that he didn’t expect the numbers to improve anytime soon, noting that August and September are historically the most violent months of the year.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) blamed the “defund the police” movement for the explosion in murders in the city, Fox News reported.

“This is what happens when you villainize law enforcement and defund police. Now more than ever, Austin police need extra support and resources to combat the surge of crime,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.

Breitbart reported that last year, the Austin City Council elected to cut $150 million from the city’s police department budget. The council also eliminated 150 police officer positions that were already vacant. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) seized upon the cut, slamming Austin’s city council at the time.

“Some cities are more focused on political agendas than public safety,” Abbott said in a written statement. “Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the  Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk and paves the way for lawlessness.”

Austin is hardly alone when it comes to the crime explosion.

According to an update last Thursday to the Council on Criminal Justice’s (CCJ) pandemic crime report, murder has increased at a rate of 16 percent across major U.S. cities during the first half of 2021, year over year compared to 2020, and by 42 percent compared to 2019, Breitbart reported.

The murder rate in cities across the country “rose rapidly” in May 2020, which exceeded the previous seasonal peak after George Floyd’s death, caused by fentanyl and meth intoxication, heart issues, and positional asphyxia caused by a Minneapolis police officer. That incident sparked nationwide protests and riots, as well as violence that hasn’t ceased since.

“A precipitous rise in homicide in the late spring of 2020 coincided with the emergence of mass protests after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, although the connection, if any, between the social unrest and heightened violence remains uncertain,” researchers wrote in the report’s conclusion.  

According to the American-Statesman, preliminary data shows gun crimes this year have been particularly high where the homicides are concerned, in particular those related to robberies and drug crimes.

However Bailey noted the number of robberies and drug crimes haven’t increased much in the past few years, although the ones that have occurred have been deadlier.

Over the past five years, Austin has seen a spike in gun violence, some involving assaults and robberies. According to police data, gun violence offenses rose from 689 in 2015 to 1,054 in 2020.

Earlier this month, the city announced an expansion of a program designed to target gun crimes in the downtown entertainment district, where shootings have escalated in the past few months.

In the cases involving Ware and Martinez, police said a reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in either case.

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For our prior reporting on the defunding of Austion’s police, we invite you to read a prior piece by our writer Mitch McKinley:

DIG DEEPER

HOUSTON, TX – Houston’s Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, took to Twitter this week to point fingers at who he believes led to Texas staying red (voting Republican) during the election Tuesday. Responding to an attorney who said the state stayed red because there are more Republicans than Democrats, the chief wrote:

“Texas Democrats can thank ‘socialist democrats and defund the police crowd’ led by @GregCasar, @JimmyFlannigan and the rest of the Austin City Council. Fact, Americans and Texans want better policing, not de-policing, and they don’t want anything to do with any form of socialism.”

Acevedo, who is also the former police chief of Austin, claimed that Austin City Council voted to reduce the APD budget by $150 million, limiting training, among other things.

The reduction led to the cancellation of the two Austin Police Department academy classes that were slated this month and March of next year. Effectively, it enacted a hiring freeze. 

Law Enforcement Today has spoken to veteran officers within the department who have said they will be retiring soon or leaving law enforcement over the new conditions in the city. With no academy classes, there will be no new officers to backfill those leaving. This is creating a shortage of officers on the street in Texas’ capital city. 

Acevedo, while directing the Houston Police Department in the decidedly Democratic urban city (the nation’s 4th largest), has obtained more money for his department to be able to grow manpower and resources, train, and protect and serve the people of Houston.

One of the Councilmen that Acevedo called out responded to the criticism. 

Greg Casar stated: 

“Austin is now the only big Texas city with no elected Republicans, and that’s for a reason. Austin voters have clearly mandated progressive priorities.”

At the time of the Austin budget cuts, Casar said:

“I think we’ve shown that we are shifting away from over-policing our community’s challenges and instead funding community solutions.”

According to KETK, Austin’s FOX affiliate:

“The budgetary cuts came after protests over the summer where Austin officers were severely criticized for their response. The Office of Police Oversight, an independent non-police agency, released 227 formal complaints related to APD actions during the protests.

“Complaints included concerns over use-of-force against protesters as well as specific complaints regarding personal physical injuries.”

Some of the formal complaints:

  • “APD used entirely unnecessary force, as well as ‘less’ (eye roll) lethal weapons on a peaceful crowd of protesters I was in Sunday afternoon. Firing chemical weapons that hurt the lungs during a pandemic is absolutely disgraceful.”
  • “Rubber bullets should NEVER be used on citizens, and pepper-spraying protesters is not appropriate. This type of response is indicative of a larger problematic culture within Austin PD.”
  • “Police need to be trained to withstand water bottles being thrown at them without reacting with physical violence. Yes, it’s terrible to have a water bottle thrown at you. It’s terrible to withstand someone’s physical attack. Please equip the APD with training in compassion, training in patience.”

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Austin City Council cuts $150M from police budget, so the county judge asks governor to send in state troopers

August 24, 2020

 

AUSTIN, TX: Last week, the Austin City Council voted to remove $150 million from the $434 million annual Police Department budget.

Other cities have reduced police budgets in the wake of the Marxist Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots around the country, but none as drastically as Austin.

In total, Portland, Seattle, Oakland, Washington D.C. and Baltimore recently cut $90.6 million from their police budgets. Meanwhile, Fort Worth has voted to increase its police budget by 2.2%. Houston has increased its police budget by 2%. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler doesn’t want to leave the impression that law enforcement will suffer because of the cuts.

First, the story goes, these aren’t really “cuts” in the sense that the money will be taken from the police and not spent on law enforcement. The way the City Council explains it, the money will be “shifted” out of the Police Department but will be used for law enforcement regardless.

The council’s broken the shifted budget into three categories: “immediate reinvestment,” the “Decouple Fund” and the “Reimagine Safety Fund.”

For instance, the budget calls for all three upcoming cadet classes to be canceled, giving the city a one-time savings of $2.27 million and a recurring annual savings of $10.74 million. The savings of $13 million will then be immediately reinvested in abortion access, parks and trails, EMS-COVID response, permanent supportive housing, equity in police technology, and other items.

Here’s the problem: none of the programs earmarked to receive money transferred from the cadet training program have anything to do with cadet training.

This is like “shifting” your household utilities budget into your pastry budget: you’ve got all the cake and cookies you could want, but you have to eat them in the dark and you can’t take a shower. This fund also cuts about $13 million from other areas, such as overtime, mounted patrols, records management, etc.

The Decouple Fund doesn’t look that bad on its face. It is the largest of the three shifted funds, at $79.6 million, but the money will still pay for the same services. But instead of being under the purview of the Police Department, this money and the services it funds will be supervised by civilians outside of the Police Department.

What could go wrong with that?

Well, here are the affected services: Forensics Sciences, Communications/9-1-1 Call Center, Support, Strategic Support, Community Partnerships, Victims Services, Internal Affairs, Special Investigations Unit, and Special Events.

One thing that seems to be missing from this part of the budget is money to accommodate administrative overhead incurred by transferring control of these services from the police to civilian control.

More to the point, if they intend to keep the services and spend the same amount on them as they have in the past, why go to the trouble of “decoupling”? Among other things, it means that money cannot be moved from one of these departments or services to another without approval from the City Council.

Another “benefit,” according to Councilman Jimmy Flannigan, is that the City Council will be in a position to approve appointments to each of the departments created by the decoupling process. In other words, they don’t trust the current leadership, so they intend to hand-pick a group of replacements.

This isn’t to help the Police Department. If anything, it is designed to interfere with law enforcement.

The last of the three funds is wittily called the “Reimagine Safety Fund.” This “shifts” $49.2 million from overtime, mounted patrols, K-9 units, traffic enforcement, training and other items, and uses it for completely different things.

Instead of all of the useful line items the money has traditionally been spent on, the money goes into a vaguely defined fund with no fixed targets. The council has a Sears catalog wish list of what it could buy if only it had the money, except now it does.

The items on its fantasy list for reimagining police service to the community include: golf course fees, Let Texans Vote Day, abortion access, APD budget direction (because it apparently doesn’t know what it wants to spend the money on), budget process, and the “Clean Creeks Crew.”

In short, the Reimagine Safety Fund takes money from existing useful services that will be cut as soon as this budgeted money disappears, and then the money will be put into a kind of rainy day fund for when the City Council decides how it wants to use it. One thing it won’t be used for is for anything it currently spends the money on.

But more than that, however it is used, the City Council’s goal will be a combination of city beautification and social justice programs, not policing.

The mayor doesn’t want us to think that the people of Austin will be losing any essential police services. To convince us, he describes how the money will be shifted into other things, like moving the Police Department out of its police station because it has supposedly outlived its usefulness, and then renovating the station for use as a BLM-friendly neighborhood welcome center.

In the context of recent deadly riots in Austin that were inspired by BLM, such a move reeks of disloyalty and malice towards the people of Austin. A cursory look at the budget proposal is enough for anyone to see that almost half of the money will leave the Police Department for good. The remaining portion will be hamstrung by council-appointed commissioners, whose presence is designed to frustrate existing management in the Police Department.

How this is good for anyone would only make sense in a crime-free fantasy world.

The city of Austin is part of Williamson County. County Judge Bill Gravell Jr. has taken a look at the budget and sees serious problems for residents of Austin and the county. He sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, asking him to assign state troopers to Austin to help the Austin Police Department, now handicapped by the City Council’s new budget.

The governor promised:

“The Texas Department of Public Safety will stand in the gap to protect our city.”

While Gov. Abbott’s response to Judge Gravell’s plea for help was encouraging, the governor was short on specifics. One can only hope that Austin will get the support it needs. 

Speaking of the Austin City Council, Councilman Greg Casar is proud to be the youngest person to ever serve on the council.

Casar is also one of the big idea men behind the recent budget cuts.

If you’d like to let Casar know how pleased you are with his performance at the next election, here is a link to his bio.

Jimmy Flannigan is another Austin councilman who is “not afraid to stand up for what is right,” meaning, he helped defund the police of Austin. If you want to let Flannigan know what you think of him at the ballot box this year, here is his campaign page.

If you live in Austin and want the city to prosper, you owe it to yourself and your neighbors to vote your City Council out of office. You saw riots in your city recently that resulted in a fatal shooting, among other acts of violence. You will only get more of that if the current council has its way. If anything, those riots should have been a wake-up call to the city of Austin. Clearly, the city has a crime problem. That would recommend increasing the police budget, not reducing it.

Even better, let the police do their job. If the city of Austin wants the violence to stop, let the police stop it by arresting the hoodlums masquerading as protesters.

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