Austin Police Department discusses budget needs

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalists CHRIS GARCIA, CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

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Posted on May 2, 2013 at 6:42 PM

Updated Thursday, May 16 at 11:31 AM

AUSTIN -- Downtown Austin is the hub in a city increasing by between 150 to180 people a day. But the city's defenders, Austin Police Department, isn't growing quite as fast.

"We're growing so quickly, as the fastest growing city, that the police department needs to make up some ground," said Police Chief Art Acevedo."We're adding more hotels, more special events, we've increased South by Southwest to nine days, we've brought in the Circuit of the Americas, so it's only getting worse. And this year we're hopeful that this year we'll be able to start addressing that shortage."

Under the metric system that city leaders like to use, there should be two officers for every 1,000 people. APD is 47 officers short and will need another 45 officers to meet projected growth.

"We still maintain the city as one of the safest as far as it relates to violent crimes, but again, we have a tremendous challenge as it relates to property crimes," said Acevedo.

That's something Ritter Vonali, owner of Novopelle, knows all about. Thieves broke into his business on South 1st Street twice last summer. The salon and gym next to him were also hit.

"It's just frustrating," said Vonali. "Walking in here it's like someone just violating you."

Now, the petty crime has made it's way into his neighborhood off Cumberland Road.

"In the past, I want to say six weeks, there have been plenty of break-ins, at least five break-ins on my street, vehicles and homes," Vonali said "The response time is really slow. I mean both in the break-ins that I had here and the break-ins over in our neighborhood, at least 45 minutes before anybody showed up."

"The only way that we're really going to be able to impact that is to start growing the department," said Acevedo. 

APD is asking for a budget of $298.8 million for fiscal year 2014. That's an increase of 5 percent from the current budget of $284.4 million. That would add the 47 officers needed to maintain the city's ratio.

However, the department would need an additional $4.37 million for the other 45 officers Acevedo says are needed.

"I'm not confident, but I'm hopeful," said Acevedo about his chances of being able to add 92 officers. 

The estimated FY 2014 budget is $3 billion. The general fund, which is used for the city's 19 service departments, is $784 million. Of that, $571 million will go to public safety. The budget goes into effect October 1, 2013.

The council will vote in September.

Click here to read more about the needs discussed for the Austin Fire Department and EMS.

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