AUSTIN (KXAN) — The leaders of the Austin Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety briefed city council Tuesday about how the now month-long partnership between the two departments is going.

Ultimately, APD Chief Joseph Chacon said he is open to shifting the partnerships strategy, but also said the locations APD has asked DPS to patrol are the ones with highest 911 calls and have been identified using data.

“We follow the lead of Chief Chacon, we’re not in charge, this is his operation,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. For the first time, we’ve learned roughly how many people have been brought to Austin.

McCraw said 80 troopers and roughly 20 special agents are in Austin as part of the partnership. It’s the first time those numbers have been made public.

The director also said DPS has made just under 12,000 traffic stops since the partnership began roughly a month ago in the county. Typically in Travis County, there are closer to 17,000 for an entire year by DPS, he said.

More than half of the total stops over the past month have been of Hispanic or Latino people, higher than the average for years past, the data shows.

Violent crime has gone down since the partnership started, said Jonathan Kringen, chief data officer for APD. He walked the council through overall violent crime compared to months and years past.

“No matter what comparison we’re making, what you see is a reduction across the board,” he said. He also noted there are other factors to consider, like seasonality. Crime typically goes up in the spring and peaks in the summer, he said.

According to a report DPS gave to council, there have been 1,159 APD assists since the program started, meaning DPS held a scene until APD could arrive, or showed up to assist APD in dealing with a scene. DPS has arrested 780 people with 460 arrests made for felonies, the agency reported.

"Enforcement action data"
“Enforcement action data” (Courtesy DPS)

DPS has also found 44 stolen vehicles, 16 rifles and 65 handguns that were in the hands of convicted felons and 335 pounds of meth, according to that report.

A higher number of Hispanic or Latino people have been pulled over in Travis County since the partnership began, something APD and the mayor said is largely because the areas DPS has been put in have higher Hispanic or Latino populations. They also said that’s where 911 calls and data guided the troopers to go.

“This isn’t just an action where they are going into these areas of Austin without a purpose. We are, as a city, targeting areas not based on race or ethnicity but instead based on calls for service,” Council Member Mackenzie Kelly told KXAN.

“Since this city council came into office in January, we’ve been engaged in a deeply felt conversation about public safety and policing in our community and that conversation has raised a lot of challenging questions,” Mayor Kirk Watson said at the start of the briefing.

Watson noted APD has more than 300 vacant officer positions and acknowledged the dip in violent crime tied to DPS’ involvement in patrolling Austin.

“The traffic enforcement however, has been troubling,” Watson said, later noting: “We want to ensure Austinites don’t fear that they will be racially profiled or targeted by this effort.”

Council is discussing a way to “recalibrate” where DPS troopers are going to operate, which is ultimately up to the city.

“We are focused on the objectives of reducing violent crime, reducing traffic fatalities and reducing response times. And let’s ensure that that’s done in an equitable and transparent way,” Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said.

There will be another briefing before the council’s public safety committee later this month.