AUSTIN (KXAN) — Stabbings and shootings have decreased in Austin since the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) upped patrols in Austin, according to the Austin Police Department (APD).

“If there’s a perception that there’s more police in the area, you’re going to be less likely to commit that crime,” said Asst. Chief Jeff Greenwalt. “And conversely, if you haven’t seen a cop in a while, and there’s a perception there’s not enough cops on the street – they’re going to feel more emboldened and more powered to commit those crimes.”

The increased DPS patrols began March 30, as a response to staffing challenges faced by APD.

Greenwalt said APD asked DPS to help primarily with the below three efforts:

  • Traffic stops for things like speeding to prevent deadly accidents
  • Responding to crashes so drivers can get help more quickly
  • Patrolling violent crime “hot spot” areas

Regarding the crime “hot spots,” Greenwalt said APD meets weekly with DPS to go over data and discuss which areas need extra law enforcement presence.

“So wherever in Austin that particular week is a hot spot, so to speak, we’re going be able to give [DPS] that information and ask them to go to that area and have an increased presence to help deter that activity,” he said.

Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), hopes for more clarity on that process.

“Not being familiar with DPS and their culture, and them not being familiar with the communities – especially black and brown people – that in itself is something we’re very concerned about,” he said. “We’re very much into accountability here with police officers. But you bring in DPS who you don’t know, and they don’t know you.”

City Council will receive a briefing from law enforcement Tuesday, April 18 about the initiative.

“I think as city council members, we really need to understand the depths of their operation,” said District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who supports the APD-DPS partnership and said she looks forward to hearing success stories thus far. “What are some of their areas of interest in the city? What are some initiatives that they specifically are working on?”

District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes tweeted that she’s displeased with how the plan for the partnership came about.

“In this briefing, I intend to dig deep on where these patrols are taking place, what kinds of arrests have been made, and the communication we’ll receive moving forward. These are just some of the concerns that I, and many community members, have expressed,” she wrote.

Affidavits KXAN reviewed Tuesday showed several trooper arrests in the Riverside and Rundberg neighborhoods. We asked DPS for updated numbers on trooper activity since the start of the initiative, but the department was not able to provide us with that data Tuesday. We will update this story when we get those numbers.

Statistics from the first five days of the operation are below:

  • 1,570 traffic stops
  • 765 citations
  • 15 crash investigations
  • 52 felony arrests
  • 31 misdemeanor arrests
  • 6 stolen vehicles recovered
  • 11 firearms seized
  • 174 grams of cocaine seized
  • 40 grams of heroin seized
  • 127,415 grams of methamphetamine seized
  • 3 street takeover events thwarted

Greenwalt said APD encourages DPS to “make contacts, get to know the people you are serving, give warnings when appropriate. But if people are out there making life dangerous for someone else, it’s time to ticket or arrest those people.”

With DPS responding to crashes, Greenwalt said APD has been able to focus on higher priority emergencies – and people involved in the crash are receiving better care.

“I think there’s a level of customer service they deserve we’re not able to provide them because of our staffing crisis,” he said.

Linder said he thought the community should have gotten to weigh in on the DPS decision.

“Very surprising here, kind of shocked, which is the main problem,” he said.

KXAN will monitor the April 18 City Council briefing on the operation.