AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin police chief assured victims Tuesday that officers will respond in person to domestic violence calls.
Chief Joseph Chacon addressed concerns that the department’s recent policy change about non-emergency calls would affect how officers handle domestic violence investigations.
“It has always been and will continue to be APD’s policy to have officers respond in person to domestic violence calls,” Chacon said. “If you are a victim of domestic violence, regardless of the time frame since the incident, officers will come to assist you, and APD victim services counselors are available to speak with you. Community safety is our number one priority.”
At the beginning of this month, staffing challenges prompted police to start more carefully looking at how it responds to non-emergency calls and who it designates to send to one of these reports. Police are now directing people to use iReportAustin.com or call 311 — not 911 — to report crimes that are no longer in progress. This includes when the suspect is no longer at the scene or in sight, and there is no immediate threat to life or property, according to the department. 911 can still be used to report emergencies.
Chacon reiterated reporting to 311 would not apply to situations involving domestic or family violence.
“Again, if you are a victim of domestic violence regardless of the time frame whether it’s happening now or it’s happened in the past,” he explained, “a call to 911 would be appropriate so that APD can respond in person.”
The police chief said domestic violence victims can also text 911 for assistance as well as call the domestic violence hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE.
Chacon’s comments came during a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon, where he and other violence prevention groups discussed plans to highlight October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
During the virtual event Tuesday, the chief and others discussed a number of events, both in-person and virtual, the public can participate in to help raise awareness of domestic violence.
- October: Light Up Purple Campaign – use purple lighting to show support and awareness
- Oct. 21: Wearing purple to raise awareness
- Oct. 25: Upstander Training w/SAFE Alliance for general public — registration link
- Oct. 28: Texas Stars hockey game with information booth and proceeds benefiting the Austin-Travis County Family Violence Task Force
- Oct. 29-30: Shopping Kendra Scott in person or online with 20% of proceeds benefiting the Austin-Travis County Family Violence Task Force
All of the events and information are on the SafeAustin website.
Domestic violence statistics provided by APD say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic violence sometime in their lifetimes. APD also says lifestyle changes brought on by COVID-19 have “increased the stress that contributes to violence and decreased the interactions that can interrupt abuse.”
“That’s why we’re dedicated to help raise awareness about what family violence means, why it’s important, and what healthy relationships look like,” APD said.