AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police staffing research funded by the Greater Austin Crime Commission (GACC) is recommending adding 108 more officers to Austin Police Department’s patrol force in order to maintain an average response time of six minutes and 30 seconds.
APD Chief Joseph Chacon discussed the new GACC report in a media briefing Tuesday.
GACC said it worked with Chacon to fund an independent research project by the University of New Haven and Texas State University Criminal Justice and Criminology. That project developed a machine-learning patrol model and community survey to “scientifically” determine appropriate staffing levels for the department.
The first phase of the research released Tuesday is focused only on patrol staffing. The model analyzed more than 6 million officer responses to nearly 2 million service calls and recommended an ideal response time of six minutes and 30 seconds for urgent calls.
APD said currently, response times are averaging in the “eight-minute range,” and in July 2021, Chacon said response times for the most critical calls averaged at nine minutes and two seconds.
“The final analysis indicated that a response time of six minutes and 30 seconds was desired for the most urgent police calls to increase the likelihood of arresting a suspect and recovering a firearm,” Chacon explained.
Right now, Chacon said the current authorized strength for APD patrol is 774 officers. To achieve the target response time, the modeling recommended boosting patrol officer numbers to 882. That number would allow for 730 working officers at any given time, and with a 95% degree of certainty, would also allow APD to maintain the average response time of six minutes and 30 seconds.
“Austin is the first city to use machine learning to model police staffing. Funding this groundbreaking research project is probably the most important contribution the Greater Austin Crime Commission has made to the community in its 25-year history,” said GACC President Corby Jastrow in part in a statement.
APD was plagued by staffing issues throughout 2021 due to retirements, resignations and the lack of new cadet classes. In July 2021, Chacon said the department was losing 15 to 20 officers a month, with more than 230 vacancies projected by May 2022.
In May 2021, the chief outlined a plan to move more than 80 officers across 14 different units to patrols over that summer.
“I’ve stated that I thought it was important to put forward a staffing recommendation that was evidence-based and data-driven, and I intend to use this as one of several tools to inform my staff planning,” Chacon said Tuesday.
He said he plans to meet with Austin City Council to get feedback on the research and will deliver detailed plans to the city manager on how these recommendations can be rolled out.
While this research is only for patrol units, the second part of the project scheduled to be done later this year will look at staffing for specialized, investigative and administrative units, according to Chacon.