Austin is one of the nation’s safest large cities, but rapid growth strains public safety resources. New metro resident estimates range from 110–158 net arrivals daily. That’s as many as sixty new families moving here each day that need a safe place to live and work. While the violent crime rates is lower than cities of comparable size, property crime is 8 percent higher and theft is 28 percent higher.
Traditional police staffing formulas based on a population ratio are outdated. Police force strength should be based on community engagement time. That’s the time patrol officers have for community policing when not responding to calls for service.
During the past five years, the Austin Police Department’s total community engagement (or “uncommitted”) time for patrol officers citywide declined from 33 to 19 percent. Studies of best practices show community engagement time goals ranging from 25–50 percent.
Hiring eighty-two additional officers per year between FY 2016–2020 will make it possible for the Austin Police Department to reach a goal of 30 percent community engagement time over five years.