AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly three weeks into the Texas Department of Public Safety’s increased patrols in Austin, Austin Police said the initiative is helping with violent crime, but some community members have expressed concerns about the presence of troopers in certain neighborhoods. So far, DPS reports its made nearly 200 arrests.
DPS started assisting the Austin Police Department last month by request in late March, through the creation of the Austin Violent Crimes Task Force, or AVCTF. According to DPS, the AVCTF is a data-driven violent crime suppression task force composed of troopers, special agents and intelligence-level policing.
In a City Memo about the APD-DPS partnership released Thursday evening, APD said “the partnership with DPS is a valuable and innovative measure to increase public safety while efforts
to build back and build up the police department are underway.”
Since the launch of the AVCTF on March 30 through April 10, DPS personnel have conducted over 5,202 traffic stops and 38 crash investigations, the agency said.
DPS making arrests in Austin
During that time, the task force has also made 117 felony and 81 misdemeanor arrests, recovered 17 stolen vehicles and seized 0.59 pounds of cocaine, 0.09 pounds of heroin, more than 289 pounds of methamphetamine and 30 firearms.
DPS said it has also provided 757 APD assists.
KXAN also looked through a selection of arrest documents to get a better understanding of arrest activity. The below arrests occurred between April 8 and April 10.
- First DWI and open container, E. Oltorf. Class B Misdemeanor.
- First DWI, E. Oltorf. Class B Misdemeanor.
- Unlawful Carry of Weapon, Drug Possession (meth), Evading Arrest with Previous Conviction, N. Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane. Part of a surveillance operation at a hotel trying to locate wanted fugitives.
- Felony Controlled Substance Two packages of marijuana-infused gummies and one marijuana vape pen, Interstate 35 Service Road. Trooper pulled car over for improperly displayed 30-day permit. Trooper searched the vehicle after smelling marijuana and the driver said he and his passenger had just smoked marijuana.
- Felony Human Trafficking of a Person Under 18. Arrest made as part of a sting.
- Possession of Controlled Substance less than 1 gram. “Three small baggies” of mushrooms and one 2 mg Xanax pill, E. Oltorf. The mushroom possession is a State Jail Felony, and the Xanax possession is a Class A Misdemeanor. The trooper pulled the car over for expired registration. The suspect had two warrants out of Hays County – one for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and another for Assault/Family Violence.
- Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance 4g < 400g bag of marijuana and five sealed marijuana vape pens, Highway 290 and I-35 Frontage Road. The vape pens fell under the Felony Possession charge. The bag of marijuana resulted in a Class B Misdemeanor offense. Trooper pulled suspect over after believing the tint on the car’s windows was below the 25% limit.
Susana Almanza, president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association, worries DPS isn’t focusing on the right thing.
“Instead of going out and addressing real hard crimes, assaults, murder, rapes… the real issues that we think need to be looked at,” she said. “Why spend that much time combing through the neighborhood seeing who has an inspection sticker, who has insurance, who doesn’t?”
Of note, the above reports are a sample of arrest incidents and may not be directly representative of the entire scope of DPS Austin patrol arrests. DPS said troopers “cite and release” anything under 4 ounces of marijuana.
The Austin Police Department’s policy on marijuana is below:
The following Class A and B misdemeanors are eligible for a release by citation:
(a) Possession of Marijuana less than two (2) ounces – (Class B)
(b) Possession of Marijuana of two (2) ounces but less than four (4) ounces – (Class A)
The APD memo on the initiative states DPS’ focus regarding traffic stops is on “interventions and warnings,” and troopers have written tickets in about 25% of the cases.
Understanding DPS priorities
APD Assistant Chief Jeff Greenwalt said the department asked DPS to help primarily with the below three efforts:
- Traffic stops for things like speeding to prevent deadly accidents
- Responding to crashes so drivers can get help more quickly
- Patrolling violent crime “hot spot” areas
Greenwalt added stabbings and shootings have decreased since the partnership began, and since troopers are responding to crashes, drivers are getting help more quickly.
Law enforcement has not named specific locations where DPS initiates its violent crime “hot spot” patrols, but Greenwalt said DPS and APD meet weekly to discuss which areas need the extra presence. KXAN observed multiple trooper arrests in the Riverside and Rundberg neighborhoods.
DPS said money acquired from DPS citations go to a Justice of the Peace in Travis County, instead of the City of Austin like it would if an APD officer wrote the ticket.
How to file a complaint with a DPS trooper
While troopers are increasing patrols within city limits, they are not subject to monitoring by the Office of Police Oversight, which is where citizens with complaints against Austin Police officers file them.
To file a complaint about an interaction with a DPS officer, you can submit it via mail, email or fax with DPS directly. You can see a blank complaint form above. You can access that DPS complaint form here.