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Victim of a Crime? Don’t Call the Austin Police

Victim of a Crime? Don’t Call the Austin Police

Victims of minor crimes in Austin, Texas are being told to call the non-emergency number 311 instead of 911 because there aren’t enough police officers to handle the city’s increasing crime rate.

On September 1st, the Austin Police Department (ADP) posted an infographic to X (formerly Twitter) directing individuals who are robbed near a bank or ATM to call 311 and file a report including the name of the bank, the time of the incident, and the amount of money stolen. Police later confirmed that individuals who are assaulted or threatened during a robbery should call 911 and said the infographic was intended for victims of a “jugging.”

According to APD, “Jugging is a form of theft that includes both robbery and burglary…It occurs when a suspect follows a victim from a bank to their next location before committing the crime.”

Austin has experienced a noticeable increase in crime following a wave of resignations and retirements that left the police department short on resources. Rates of auto theft, murder, and aggravated assault have increased by 77%, 30%, and 18% (respectively) since 2020 – the same year Austin’s city council voted to slash APD’s budget by $150 million, remove 150 officers, and cut 3 cadet classes.

Not surprisingly, the number of 311 calls has also increased, jumping by 52% from 2021 to 2022. Today, the department receives an average of 500 or more non-emergency calls each day. With few officers to respond to these calls, victims are waiting one month or longer to hear back from the police regarding minor assaults, burglary, noise complaints, code violations, property crimes, and other issues.

The department began routing more calls through the 311 system during the pandemic in order to limit interactions with the public and has continued to utilize the non-emergency line for incidents that do not require a police response.

“Various things such as you are reporting a theft has already occurred, or you are reporting an assault that happened yesterday, and there is no ongoing danger at that moment…we are pushing a lot of those calls to the 311 system,” admits Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon, adding that the department has also expanded the types of calls for which it does not send a police officer to the scene.

“We’re a growing city, a city that should be up around 2,000 officers and growing right now,” says Thomas Villarreal, President of the Austin Police Association. “I’ve got about 1,475 officers in our police department and, you know, we’re moving in the wrong direction. There’s less and less and less resources to go out and do the job.”

Detectives are regularly pulled away from their cases to act as patrol officers, added Villarreal, and individuals normally assigned to the 311 system are being reassigned to 911. As reported by Austin-based ABC affiliate KVUE, the backlog of 311 reports is as high as 6,000. Even with employees working overtime hours, officers say it will take months to clear the logjam.

Even worse, there are times when an entire area of the city is left without police support because all available officers are called to respond to a major crime.

“A homicide comes out or a shooting comes out – that’s going to tie up every officer available,” says Justin Berry, a former Austin cop who was among a group of 19 officers indicted in 2022 for the use of excessive force against protestors during the 2020 protests that occurred following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

According to Berry and others, the political climate in Austin is a major reason behind the police shortage.

“We’re right there with Portland and Seattle and San Francisco as being one of those places where if you’re at all conservative or in law enforcement, it’s become a hostile place,” explains Lt. Brian Moon, who is among a group of nearly 80 officers to retire earlier this year. “Austin had always been a pretty liberal-leaning city, but it was pro-law enforcement at the same time. They expected us to do things the right way, obviously, but they weren’t hyper critical like they became.”

Austin is planning to introduce a new system later this year that will allow individuals calling a non-emergency line to speak with an automated operator. The system is designed to eliminate the need for a call-back from a police officer, but as we know, technology like this sometimes causes more problems than it solves.

Police Chief Chacon remains optimistic that one day the department will be able to dispatch officers to take reports in person like APD did before the pandemic, but an increase in officers is not likely to change the city’s political views.

“We’ve pretty much conceded that we’re not going to show up anymore on certain calls,” says Mr. Moody, a former watch commander in Austin. “Eventually it’s going to get to the point where it’s so bad, everyone’s going to realize that something has to be done.


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  1. Dan tyree

    We are responsible for our own defense and safety. Yes, the police should be called but don’t depend on them to arrive in time to help. Lock and load. Be a proud gun nut and be prepared to defend yourself and yours

  2. frank stetson

    I agree on this one Dan. More so today than yesterdays.

    • frank stetson

      wow, i am having posts not post, seems there is either a machine glitch or censorship. seems ok here, but two other pieces posted to the ether.