AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will temporarily cease its partnership with the Austin Police Department (APD) so that troopers can focus their attention on border cities in the wake of the expiration of Title 42, according to law enforcement sources.
The initiative, called the Austin Violent Crimes Task Force (AVCTF), began on March 30 as a way to assist APD, as the department faces a staffing shortage. APD currently has about 300 vacancies.
According to law enforcement sources, DPS’ last day will be Saturday, and troopers will likely not return to their Austin patrols for several weeks.
Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents District 6 in northwest Austin, released a statement Saturday morning saying the partnership estimated it is ending for only a two-week period.
“While the situation is still evolving, we acknowledge that this may impact public safety in certain areas,” Kelly said. “Still, we support their crucial work at the border and welcome them back as soon as possible. We remain committed to ensuring safety in our city and appreciate the cooperation of our law enforcement partners.”
Since the program began, there have been “significant decreases in violent crime, response times, and calls for service,” according to the APD. The department used a data-driven approach to identify crime “hot-spots” as well as high-travel roads most common for crashes – and deployed troopers to those locations.
In the crime hot spot areas where DPS deployed, violent crime dropped 58%, according to APD’s chief data officer. DPS’ presence also helped APD respond to emergency calls more quickly.
The program has also drawn criticism from heavily patrolled communities, with residents feeling like they were being unfairly targeted with traffic stops. City Council members shared some of these concerns at a briefing earlier this month.
In an email that APD Chief Joseph Chacon sent to staff members, he thanked DPS for troopers’ efforts, pointing to gun and drug arrests and a now lower number of calls for violent crime. He told staff he will keep the department updated on when the troopers will return.