AUSTIN (KXAN) — More people were out on Austin’s many lakes to celebrate the holiday weekend, but the number of officers patrolling the waters has gone down, with Austin Police Department’s Lake Patrol Unit now made up of six officers.

Senior Patrol Officer Robert Chapman has worked in this unit for more than a decade. He said they need about 12 officers to better patrol Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin and Decker Lake.

Tyler Seay and his family know firsthand the difference the lake patrol unit makes.

“Motor died. So me and my buddy, Jeff, started swimming it in,” Seay said.

While enjoying Labor Day on Lake Austin, Seay ended up stranded in the water.

“Two nice gentleman that happened to be police officers saw us swimming and came up to us and offered us a tow,” Seay said.

Austin Police Department's Lake Patrol Unit towing a boat that's motor died.
APD Lake Patrol said it needs to double the amount of officers it has to better patrol all three of its lakes. (KXAN Photo/Sarah Al-Shaikh)

It’s these type of rescues lake patrol does on the daily, covering about 34 miles of water.

Chapman said because the unit is so short staffed, not all of those lakes have officers patrolling them.

“If we have all of our resources out here per say, we will have to pull a boat, get a boat, take it over to Decker Lake for example,” Chapman said.

Chapman said they’ve been working with fewer officers since last September. He said that’s when all of APD’s units began working at 80% staffing.

That’s stretched the lake patrol unit thin, causing officers like Chapman to work on their day off.

“On busy weekends, you know we try to help each other out and come work extra to make sure we get everything covered that we need to out here,” Chapman said.

With no relief in sight, Chapman said the unit is making do with what it has, because they love getting the chance to help people out, like Seay and his family.

“We absolutely need those guys out here. Whether they’re patrolling the water looking for people that aren’t obeying the laws or whether they’re helping you know people who have engine trouble,” Seay said.

Chapman said in the next coming months, the lake patrol unit will rotate out one officer per month to street patrols.

That’ll leave them with only five officers.