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.

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Comments on “US Attorney Blames Violent Crime Spike In Austin, Texas On Police Budget Cuts That Haven't Even Been Implemented Yet”

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53 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'If we can beat even more people that's sure to do the trick!'

You know what’s great at reducing crimes better than simply more cops on the streets with ever increasing gear? Providing services to prevent people from getting so desperate that engaging in crimes becomes an acceptable alternative because it’s either that or starve, and/or helping those with mental conditions whether short or long-term get the help they need such that actions that might violate the law aren’t seen as acceptable.

US police have more than had their chance and it very clearly isn’t working, it’s well past time to try something else and if that means less money and toys for them then too damn bad, if the current method isn’t working you don’t double down and try it even harder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'If we can beat even more people that's sure to do the trick

US police have more than had their chance and it very clearly isn’t working, it’s well past time to try something else and if that means giving them a taste of their own medicine then too damn bad.

FTFY.

It’s well past time to stop allowing these thugs to run around. See a badge? Take it out before it takes you out.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'If we can beat even more people that's sure to do the t

Uhh, no. Bad enough to have one group of killers out there, open warfare on the streets would not be an improvement and in fact merely plays right into the polices’ hands by giving them an actual threat to point to which they can use to justify their current actions and ask for even more power and authority to wield against the public.

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Tim, I am sad to say that you have not provided sufficient reason to believe this is true. (without much more supporting evidence). For example: if the police officers are themselves are the cause of some of the violent crimes, then yes, a violent crime spike could indeed be related to a future "budget cut" for the PD.

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Koby does tip his hand occasionally as to what type speech he’s really concerned trying to "protect" with his fact-free rants against section 230, and shockingly it’s never the sort of speech that would be welcome in most communities. Why, it’s almost as if the reason he’s so upset with it is because his alt right friends keep being told to go be racist elsewhere…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Confidence

Can you cite any regorous studies that have demonstrated this effect?

Can you give us a good reason to believe that the crime spike is caused by the mere anticipation of a police budget cut and not by the desperation of the newly impoverished caused as a result of a pandemic and the monumentally incompetent handling of the same by some in power (mostly republicans)?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Confidence

Merely claiming something does not make it true. "We know that all criminals are gamblers" – oh really? I doubt that either of us know any such thing. How many criminals do you know? Even 0.01% of the total? Can you cite any reputable studies to back up your assertion? You know, like real evidence.

You have responded to a request for evidence with (bigoted and unsubstantiated) opinion. Colour me unimpressed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Confidence

"We know that all criminals are gamblers, and they are betting that they can make it 6-12 months without being caught,"

We know that all starving humans will eventually resort to whatever it takes in order to obtain something to eat. There is no gambling and there is no tomorrow, only the now. After obtaining sustenance, they are not home free since they will be starving again real soon.

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Pam B Namby says:

You're simply LYING.

Sofer’s claim that defunding the Austin PD has led to an increase in violent crime.

NO, the quote that you didn’t comprehend because had your bias on full power is:

“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.

WHEN IS INDEFINITE. He does not state that the cuts have been made, but WHENEVER are, the bad consequences will result.

Just ask in Michigan or Portland whether WHENEVER cuts are made, crime goes UP.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're simply LYING.

Are you having another episode?

I’ve noticed that when you do, people tend get more ‘insightful’ ratings. It’s hard to say if the terribleness just makes some ordinary comments look really good, or if you actually inspire people to say insightful things.

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Pam B Namby says:

You don't seem at all shocked that SOME cases lunatics are!

In most cases, no one’s looking to completely dismantle the local police force.

Wouldn’t be surprised if you’re one of the extreme "anarchists" who thinks that we can get rid of police and prisons entirely, ’cause you definitely wish to reduce policing so that can steal content and do drugs. The police are buzzing your harsh, and you just want to be FREE, right?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You don't seem at all shocked that SOME cases lunatics are!

This makes absolutely no sense. Please try again, but with your brain engaged.

For those whom it is not blindingly obvious: this is accusing the article of holding the exact opposite view the article says it holds. If you want to even think about that you really need to provide some evidence, like links the author isn’t being honest. A simply "nuh uh" just reflects poorly on you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately "political debate" in the US these days seems to be mostly shouting beliefs at each other with total disregard for objective facts. It is indulged in by all sides from time to time. I have seen it here often enough, from many of the "respectable" locals. But I must say, compared to Trumpist republicans, almost everyone else is a total amateur.

BTW, if you think Koby is an extreme nutjob, you should look at the "politics" forum on Baen’s Bar. There are numerous examples there that make Koby look relatively moderate and sane. A real kicker is I saw one person there claim that he went to the Bar to see how "they" (probably meaning you folks, here) think and see the world. I shudder to think what sort of cesspool he regularly hangs out at.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"BTW, if you think Koby is an extreme nutjob, you should look at the "politics" forum on Baen’s Bar."

We don’t think he’s an extreme nutjob – he’s not even the worst person on this site. But, it is fun to poke through his facade of politely disagreeing with section 230 for honest reasons, to reveal the fact that he’s just another wannabe Proud Boy upset at the fact that his friends are rightly being told they’re not welcome among normal people.

"I shudder to think what sort of cesspool he regularly hangs out at."

The point with these discussions is that the rest of us don’t want to hang out there, so we oppose his attempts to force the sites we do want to use to host his abhorrent community against their will.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I can recommend reading the Grits For Breakfast blog, which has had a number of running updates on Austin city council vs the Austin police department.

The police department were told last year that they needed to provide the cadet curriculum before the council would approve the expenditure … for last May’s cohort.

Pointing at "defund the police" movements is a "what in the world is that?" move worthy of Vizzini himself. So very many strikes against it that "defund the police" doesn’t move the bar:

  • 40% dropout rate.
  • "teachers" who were basically cops pulled off the front lines and told "go teach this class" with no knowledge of education (adult or otherwise) in hand.
  • having been told "give us a curriculum to look at", the PD instead waited and said, "well, we can’t meet that deadline now, can we have classes anyway and try again next quarter?" … the council stood their ground. Amazing, right?

Really, go google "grits for breakfast blog", and read more about it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Honestly the best case scenario I can think of for not being able to provide a curriculum is incredible laziness and it only goes downhill from there"

There was a story that came out not so long ago that Kentucky police training materials were quoting Hitler and Robert E. Lee, and were promoting extreme violence in response to peaceful assembly.

Sadly, the most likely reason for there not being a curriculum here is that they’re smart enough not to have this stuff written down.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Has Techdirt, spoken to anyone from the Austin Texas Police?

Are you practicing maximal incorrectness?
Because it’s pretty high here.

Just woke talk about defunding the police an how it’s OK because they say so…

The article clearly address how ‘defunding the police’ is not quite the correct portrayal. AKA some places are reducing their funding to other method to address some of the issues. The article covers this. Lots of other Techdirt articles cover this. This is the opposite of "because they said so". There are plenty of reasons (aka reasons that are not just "because they said so") for those who have both eyes and basic reading comprehension.

You know, written by someone who probably supports BLM(ANTIFA terrorists).

Your equation of a general social movement, who’s essence can probably be boiled down to "it’s not acceptable to simply murder black people" to terrorism is… amazing.

terrorist [ ter-er-ist ]
noun

  1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
  2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others.
    3 (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror.
    4 an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.
    adjective
    5 of, relating to, or characteristic of terrorism or terrorists

(taken from dictionary.com)

So you appear to be say that people who disagree with murdering black people are themselves a violent threat to others, or are at least fear inducing. Does not being able to murder a certain set of the population really fill you with that much terror?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"I think there’s a lot of people who get a different impression when they hear the same words"

There’s also people who are paid handsomely to muddy and discredit what these groups are saying, as there has been with people who want you to think that BLM are saying "ONLY Black Lives Matter" instead of the intended "Black Lives ALSO Matter".

The question of whether you understand the intended message seems to depend on who is interpreting the message for you.

To me, an ocean away from the US, the intended "defund" message is clear – stop buying unneeded military toys for the police and start funding social programs and employ mental health and other professionals who are better placed to deal with certain problems than tanks and guns. I believe this is correct, and if so the question is why is the message being misunderstood locally – and who benefits from that.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Has Techdirt, spoken to anyone from the Austin Texas Pol

So you appear to be say that people who disagree with murdering black people are themselves a violent threat to others, or are at least fear inducing. Does not being able to murder a certain set of the population really fill you with that much terror?

I suspect that it is filled with the terror that should POC gain the same rights and considerations as Caucasians, then the POC will treat the Caucasians as they were treated. This is not true, but no one said that such folk live in reality.

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
— Nicholas Klein (1914)

BLM and ANTIFA are the they attack you phase.

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Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if the argument can work the other way round – does hinting at extreme and idiotic new draconian laws increase crime because people feel like they have to take their chance to steal/destroy/etc before the new punishments come into effect? (I am sarcastic here, but if this is the language that law enforcement people understands, perhaps there is a chance to make a point…)

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restless94110 (profile) says:

The Chilling Effect

So, let me get this straight: you do not understand what the onslaught of anti-policing propaganda does to the what the police do or do not do? To be clear, when the police are charged with murder one for "killing" a drug addict who actually died of a fentanyl overdoes, you don’t understand how maybe just possibly, no probably, that might affect how police do their job in communities all over America?

How do could you be so stupid? Crime rises when police are persecuted for doing the job they were trained to do. And defunding them just will make it worse as they have discovered to their chagrin in Minneapolis and Portland.

Come on, man! How can you be so smart in tech and so dumb in logic? Recommend: stop writing on anything but tech and copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Chilling Effect

To be clear, when the police are charged with murder one for "killing" a drug addict who actually died of a fentanyl overdoes, you don’t understand how maybe just possibly, no probably, that might affect how police do their job in communities all over America?

There is so much wrong here. Lets pretend, for a moment that the drug user BS is in fact true. What you are basically saying is: "Given a person experiencing a life threatening medical emergency. The person is also begging for help. Police standing around doing nothing more than making sure the person can not get aid, should not be charged with a crime". That is the story you want to go with? Really?

You would have been better off ditching reality totally and saying he was a space lizard come to enslave us all, and eat small children alive. Because your current story just shows you as the monster you seem to want to be.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Chilling Effect

It’s like trying to defend someone accused of poisoning another person by saying they didn’t poison the now dead person, they merely deliberately prevented the victim from getting to an antidote until they died from a completely unrelated poisoning that just so happened to kick in when the accused was there. If anything the ‘defense’ only makes the accused look worse.

That said there is some dark irony to be found in the various defenses of cop related deaths, as if you take them at face value while cops may not directly be killing people they do seem to have a ‘field of death’ around them that causes people to just drop dead from completely unrelated issues at a staggering rate as soon as police get near them, such that if those defending them are right police are if anything even bigger threats to the general public than if they were intentionally killing people.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

More cops and more crime

The United States has the highest violent crime rate, highest incarceration rate, huge police force, highest infant mortality (in the most "pro-life" states of course) and lowest life expectancy in the free world. I don’t know if we can classify it the free world anymore. Obviously being "tough on crime" (aka revenge) is much more important than quality and even quantity of life. Any transgression no matter how small has the potential to ruin a (non-oligarch) person’s life. Trump, one of the biggest crooks ran as the law and order candidate. The USA is getting exactly what it paid for. It’s really not about anything but controlling the people who might dare to want something better.

ECA (profile) says:

Ask, what makes a crook or thief.

Fill in the blank.

If you are hungry what can you do?
If you need a place to stay, what can you do?

Who does a thief steal from?
What does an Opportunist get?

To be Poor is as a crack addict, In that you will do what you can to keep living. The restriction comes to, HOW far you will go.

Now comes the hard part. What can be done for Either? the Poor or the crack addict.

Lets also ask, Who understands this MORE? the poor, the rich, the middle class, the person on the streets?

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