Union Says Austin Police Dept Battling Crime Spike Hundreds Of Officers Short After ‘Defund The Police’

"We're moving in the wrong direction."
AUSTIN, TX - JULY 31: Police block off an area of 6th Street after two shootings July 31, 2016 in downtown Austin, Texas. Austin Police say shots rang out in the city's entertainment district around 2:17 a.m. A woman in her 20s was killed and three women in their 30s were listed in serious but non-life threatening condition, according to published reports. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Austin is battling a crime spike with a police department that is hundreds of officers short, meaning 911 callers are getting left on hold, according to a union representing the cops.

The Austin Police Department currently stands at around 1,475 officers, and the growing city needs closer to 2,000 in order to be able to protect the city, said Thomas Villarreal, president of the Austin Police Association, a union representing officers of the Austin PD.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction. There’s less and less resources to go out and do the job,” Villarreal told Fox News on Monday.

Detectives in Austin have been pulled away from their caseload to help answer 911 calls, and some sworn personnel have started answering emergency calls on an overtime basis, Villarreal said.

“Anecdotally, on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night when things are hopping, it’s not unusual for there to be multiple people put on hold for eight, 10, 12 or more minutes before you even get a 911 call taker,” Villarreal said.

“And then if it’s that busy for the 911 call takers, then with limited resources working the streets, it’s at times hours before officers are getting to some calls, especially the lower priority ones,” he said.

While overall crime in Austin is slightly down from the highs of 2020 and 2021, certain types of offenses have spiked.

Austin’s murder rate remains high, with at least 41 homicides in 2023 as of August 8.

Car thefts are up 28% this year, according to police data through July. Arson is up nearly 40%. Shoplifting is up 13%. Certain types of sexual assaults and human trafficking cases have spiked as well.

Aggravated assaults are slightly down but remain high at 2,098. Simple assaults also remain high at 5,537.

In 2020, Austin’s city council voted to slash the police department’s budget by $150 million, more than a third.

Instead, the defund proposal said the saved money would be reallocated to a “Reimagine Safety Fund,” violence prevention, mental health, permanent supportive housing, food access, abortion, and an early childhood coordinator position.


“We just continue to have a city council that doesn’t show its police officers that it cares about them,” Villarreal said.

The police department has lost more than 800 officers in the last six years.

Meanwhile, at least 19 Austin police officers have been indicted for their actions on the job during the riots of 2020. The officers were indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. During the unrest, police shot beanbag rounds into crowds of protesters, and in one case, a protester sustained a cracked skull and brain damage.

Other Democrat-run cities have also dealt with the fallout from their police budget cuts.

In San Francisco, Democratic Mayor London Breed cut $120 million from the San Francisco police and sheriff’s budgets in 2020, even though police warned the cut could affect their ability to respond to emergencies.

By 2021 though, because the police cuts had impacted the San Francisco police department’s ability to respond to emergencies, Breed flipped on her decision. She made an emergency request to the Board of Supervisors for more law enforcement money to crack down on crime, including open-air drug dealing, car break-ins, and theft from stores.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Union Says Austin Police Dept Battling Crime Spike Hundreds Of Officers Short After ‘Defund The Police’