US Attorney Blames Violent Crime Spike In Austin, Texas On Police Budget Cuts That Haven’t Even Been Implemented Yet

from the despite-reforms,-tables-continue-to-be-pounded-by-law-enforcement dept

Movements to “defund” law enforcement agencies have sprung up around the nation, trailing the protests against police violence that spread across the country following the killing of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police officers in May.

In most cases, no one’s looking to completely dismantle the local police force. Instead, legislators and activists are seeking to move some of their funding to other areas — like social services, mental health care, and other crime reduction efforts that shouldn’t involve armed officers. This hasn’t stopped police departments — which often command outsized percentages of city budgets — from complaining they’re being dismantled and that these efforts will lead to outbreaks of violent crime.

One of the agencies complaining about defunding and violent crime is the Austin Police Department. And a federal official is pitching in with the complaining. A recent press conference held by the US Attorney’s Office claims Austin’s defunding effort has led to more crime.

With murders in Austin up 55% over the previous year, U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer, joined by dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officials, announced in Austin today the implementation of Operation Undaunted, a program designed to tackle the rising violent crime rate, interrupt violence, protect innocent life and restore peace to Austin neighborhoods.

“When you defund the police, relax enforcement of existing criminal law, and release repeat offenders and violent criminals into our streets, increased violence is exactly what you can expect,” said U.S. Attorney Sofer. “Despite the challenges of the coronavirus and the unfair vilification of the entire law enforcement community, we remain undaunted in our commitment to protect the residents of central and west Texas.

More dubious than the assertion that any “vilification” of law enforcement is “unfair” is Sofer’s claim that defunding the Austin PD has led to an increase in violent crime. The Austin PD is losing some funding (but will still command 40% of the city’s general fund), but almost none of it has taken effect yet.

The only thing the Austin PD has “lost” at this point is some officers who aren’t even officers yet.

In August, the council voted unanimously to eliminate upcoming cadet classes in the troubled police academy, diverting $20 million to programs that address homelessness, mental health, and family violence prevention.

A crime rate increase in 2020 is completely unrelated to budget cuts that won’t take effect until 2021.

Over the course of the year following the budget vote, another $80 million will be reallocated from the department by placing some functions, such as forensics and 911 dispatch, within other parts of the city’s government. The council also flagged another $50 million for “community led” review.

The problem the US Attorney is trying to externalize as defunding is actually an internal problem.

Notably, not a single officer was laid off to accommodate the budget changes.

The Austin PD still has all of its officers and almost all of its resources. All it’s missing are some graduates from the police academy. And it may not be missing those for long.

[T]he council said it may allow one or two cadet classes to begin in fiscal year 2021 if a revised curriculum is completed and a “more appropriate recruitment program” is implemented. It will also consider attrition rates, pension impacts and additional funding as factors influencing its decision on cadet classes.

This is the unfair vilification of police reform efforts — ones that route some funds to social and mental health support services, which should hopefully allow the PD to focus on more dangerous crime, rather than send officers to arrest homeless residents or those suffering from mental health episodes.

If violent crime is spiking, it’s still on the PD. It hasn’t lost any resources yet. And — despite idiots like Governor Greg Abbott swallowing this BS about defunding and crime spikes — an increase in crime is just that: an increase. Crime rates may return to their historic lows. Or it may be the leading edge of years of increased crime. But all it is right now is an increase over last year’s rate, which indicates almost nothing on its own. It’s certainly can’t be attributed to budget cuts that haven’t even been implemented yet.

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.
Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.
While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.
–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: austin, crime, defund the police, doj, greg abbott, gregg sofer, texas, us attorney