AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two homicides in Austin over the weekend break an unwanted Austin record.
A deadly shooting on North Lamar Boulevard and a fatal stabbing at Sixth and Nueces Streets called in to 911 within just minutes of one another mark the city’s 59th and 60th homicides of 2021.
According to Greater Austin Crime Commission Executive Director Cary Roberts, that’s the highest number of homicides Austin has recorded in one year in modern history.
“This number is certainly alarming,” Roberts said. “But, you know, we are seeing a national trend around violent crime due to gun violence, pandemic instability, economic strain, things that traditionally lead to upticks in crime.”
In 1984, Roberts says there were 59 homicides in Austin. For reference, the homicide rate was much higher that year, because the population was a lot lower. Roberts says that year, there were 13.2 homicides per 100,000 people, while Austin’s homicide rate so far this year is 6.2 per 100,000.
For reference, the homicide rate was five per 100,000 last year.
With it only being September, however, it’s not a precise comparison. Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon says compared to this time last year, homicides are up 74%.
The chief held a press conference late Monday afternoon naming what he believes are several contributing factors.
Chacon says gun crimes are on the rise, and he stresses the need to get more illegal firearms off the streets. He also says staffing issues that prevent officers from doing proactive policing are contributing.
“The fewer officers I have on patrol, it is going to impact that,” Chacon said. “And I think that has played a part in this overall increase we’re seeing in the numbers of murders and aggravated assaults.”
Chacon added his detectives are finding a number of criminals committing violent crimes like aggravated assault and robbery are out on personal recognizance bonds and reoffending.
“I think that’s something that we as a community and as a criminal justice system overall really have to look at and determine whether we’re making the most appropriate choices in individuals and how can we reform that, if necessary, to keep our community safe,” Chacon said.
To help with this year’s influx of murders citywide, Chacon has added two detectives to the APD Homicide Unit in the past month. That brings the total number of detectives working murder cases to 14.
Chacon says 49 of this year’s homicides have been solved, while 11 are still under investigation. He says detectives have solid leads in several of those open cases.
Both Chacon and Roberts agree the rise in homicide and other violent crimes is not unique to Austin.
Roberts points out a number of other large cities are not only facing their highest number of homicides like Austin, but also their highest-ever homicide rates by the end of the year.