AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council’s Public Safety Committee received a briefing from law enforcement this morning on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s patrols in Austin.
The initiative, which began on March 30, is currently on pause as troopers focus their attention on border cities following the expiration of Title 42.
“There’s no specific timeline, however, we plan on resuming,” said Regional Director Vincent Luciano with DPS. “Currently, we’re tied up with border operations. We’re trying to be the best partners we can be to the City of Austin. This weekend, there was a planned street takeover, and we sent a large contingent of troopers to help APD.”
The goals of the partnership are to reduce traffic deaths and violent crime, and free up Austin Police Department officers to respond to emergency calls more quickly.
Since the program began, there have been “significant decreases in violent crime, response times, and calls for service,” according to APD. The department used a data-driven approach to identify crime “hot spots” as well as high-travel roads most common for crashes – and deployed troopers to those locations.
In the crime hot spot areas where DPS deployed, violent crime dropped 58%, according to APD’s chief data officer. DPS’ presence also helped APD respond to emergency calls more quickly.
The program has also drawn criticism from heavily patrolled communities, with residents feeling like they were being unfairly targeted with traffic stops. City Council members shared some of these concerns at a separate briefing earlier this month.
Data behind DPS deployment
APD showed the below maps and charts to outline the crash and crime hot-spot areas, as well as crash and data before and after DPS began its partnership in Austin.
Earlier this month, council members shared constituents’ concerns with police about where APD chose to deploy DPS. Following that briefing, Chief Joseph Chacon sent troopers to patrol new areas.
“We moved them in weeks 5 and 6 and asked them to re-focus to some other areas because crime had fallen,” said APD Chief Data Officer Jonathan Kringen. “Once we moved them out, what we saw was increased call for service, increased response time and an increase in violent crime.”
Mixed reaction from community on partnership
Monday’s special-called meeting allowed for public comment on the initiative.
Some spoke in favor of the partnership.
“Applaud APD for partnering with DPS to stop violent crime, arrest criminals, and lower 911 response times,” said one speaker.
“DPS has demonstrated in Austin what public safety should look like,” said another.
Others voiced concerns about the increased patrols.
“Safety doesn’t look the same for everybody, and building trust is a big thing,” said one speaker.
“I have never seen so much fear and anxiety by my neighbors by their presence,” said another.
Chacon said once the partnership resumes, APD will provide City Council with regular updates on crime trends, crashes and other data.
“We have heard clearly what the council’s wishes are with how the operation should be conducted,” said Chacon. “We want to operate within that framework. We want to be responsive. We also want to affect violent crime and serious injury collisions.”