Last summer, amidst the nationwide protests to defund police, Austin, Texas decided to cut around one-third of its police budget. This marked the largest decrease in police funding of any major city in the United States.
Austin has seen a 71% increase in the homicide rate since 2020
Democrat Councilman Greg Cesar (who headed the push to cut police funding) alleged the decision allowed a moment for them to “celebrate” what the movement was for, namely democracy, racial justice, and safety.
However, since the decision to decrease the budget, the city has gotten less safe. According to the data analysis compiled by AH Datalytics, Austin has recorded a 71% spike in homicides.
Although there was an increase in the homicide rate since 2020, the hike in Austin is one of the largest numbers they have tracked.
Austin continues to feel the impact from the Mayor & City Council’s defund the police agenda. This week they reported its 75th homicide, as 28 more police officers left the force because of Austin’s anti-police movement. Austin must act to protect Texans. https://t.co/UzIFfrUofY
— Rep. Roger Williams (@RepRWilliams) October 29, 2021
Accordingly, the cut in funding brought in a series of changes to the police department of Austin. Classes for the cadets were canceled, making it harder to bring more people into the police force.
In addition to this, there were specialized units that were also cut back. The number of attacks has likewise soared. As of May 2021, the shortages in the police force have led to a 30% longer response time.
In a statement by the national director of Right on Crime, Lars Trautman stated the police department in Austin started asking people to start dialing 311, instead of 911, for some emergencies and crimes, citing a shortage of staff.
Trautman stated the Austin Police Department simply does not have the manpower to respond to all the calls.
Then, in August, the council reversed its decision to defund the police, as they passed a substantial boost in police funding.
The decision was made after the city was placed under pressure, due to the rise in violent crime, in addition to state law that gives a penalty to cities that defunded the police.
The city is also experiencing a hiring problem
However, Republican activists at “Save Austin Now” think the decision by the progressive officials was a little too late. According to reports, they were able to work out a referendum called “Proposition A” on the ballot for the special election expected to transpire on Tuesday.
The proposition would require the city government to put at least two police forces on every 1,000 residents, encourage additional training, and offer incentives to recruit officers who speak an additional language.
Matt Mackowiak, the co-founder of Save Austin Now, stated the residents of Austin do not want to cut the police funding.
“It was the worst label, and the worst branding in American political history because anytime we talk about police accountability or police reform, the other side says it is ‘defund the police’,” – @washingtonpost https://t.co/1QmTnWjbzX
— Justin Bibb for Mayor (@BibbForCLE) October 31, 2021
However, another challenge the city is facing is whether police funding alone could solve the shortage of manpower. Katie Narjanjo, the Democrat Party chair in Travis County, acknowledged there is also a hiring problem.
She added she supports the police force being fully staffed; however, she also stated the department does not need additional funds if they cannot add more staff in the vacant positions they currently have.