In August, the Austin City Council voted unanimously to make significant reductions to the police budget. Now, some city council members who celebrated the cuts have changed their story. You can’t have it both ways.
What really happened? It’s confusing. The Austin City Council cut an additional $21.5 million from the city manager’s proposed budget and “reinvested” a total of $31.5 million in alternative responses and other programs. Another $121.7 million was put into a “transition” budget that will be evaluated by the City-Community Reimagining Public Safety Task Force (see below). That means as much as $153.2 million may be cut or moved from the police budget.
The City-Community Reimagining Public Safety Task Force meeting will be livestreamed for the first time today at 6:00 p.m. You can watch it on Facebook. More than a dozen social justice groups and the Greater Austin Crime Commission are represented on the task force. A similar group in Houston concluded its work in ninety days and issued a report with 104 recommendations. Read it here.
The latest crime statistics indicate several categories continue to rise compared to last year: murder (40%), arson (38%), auto theft (31%), and aggravated assault (18%). Burglary, fraud, robbery, and vandalism have also increased. Others crimes decreased, including burglary of vehicle, rape, and shoplifting.
Crime data should be considered in context. For example, a comparatively small rise in murders can lead to a significant percentage increase. There have been thirty-five murders in Austin compared to twenty-five during the same period last year. But it’s more than a numbers game―every crime has a victim.
Stay safe. Vote early.
P.S. During an Austin PBS conversation with Mayor Steve Adler about defunding police, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the upcoming election is a “referendum on public safety.” Watch the thirty-minute program here or on KLRU-TV this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.