Victim advocates have competing ideas on whether to redirect Austin police funding

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Groups advocating for victims of crime disagree over whether reducing funding for Austin police will lead to a safer city.

BACKGROUND: Proposal floated to approve Austin Police budget for six months, then reevaluate

The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice are asking the Austin City Council to provide $1 million in funding for a trauma recovery center, which is designed to connect crime victims with resources.

“Like many crime victims, people who are victimized once are more likely to experience repeat victimization,” said Tricia Forbes, a survivor of sexual assault who now works as an advocate for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

If approved, the funding would provide a budget for Austin’s trauma recovery center for one year. Currently, there are 35 trauma recovery centers in six states across the country.

“One of the ways that I coped with the depression, anxiety, nightmares, panic attacks, was through drugs and alcohol,” Forbes said, now 12 years sober. “I never received any help with that for many years.”

The Austin Police Dept.’s response to police brutality protests launched a community-wide conversation about how the city uses its resources.

Austin City Council members will begin the budget adoption process for the Fiscal Year 2020-21 next week. City Manager Spencer Cronk’s proposed budget would redirect $11.3 million from the Austin Police Dept. to support other services.

The Austin 20, a group of victims of domestic minor sex trafficking, fears taking officers off the streets could negatively impact that vulnerable population and opposes cuts to APD.

“I’m here to speak for the girls who were just like I was 23 years ago,” said Allison Mack, owner of “Austin Moms,” an online publication. “I was a child. I am confident that, had it not been for the detective working my case, the man who had done this to me would have gone unpunished.”

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison recently suggested an idea to pass a six-month APD budget, instead of the full year, to give the city more time to decide how to best deploy resources. Mayor Steve Adler expressed support for a similar plan during his “State of the City” address.

KXAN politics reporter John Engel is covering both events today and will have full recap tonight on KXAN at 6 p.m.

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