Mental health police cases in Austin on the rise


by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE

Posted on January 7, 2013 at 11:17 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 7 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN – A crackdown on downtown Austin crime last fall was the impetus for members of Austin’s Public Safety Commission to look at crimes committed by the homeless and mental health numbers.

According to Austin police, of the 254 violent crimes in downtown Austin from January 2012 to November 2012, 89 of them or 35 percent were committed by a person identified as homeless.

APD numbers also showed that the number of homeless with mental health issues who were arrested last year nearly doubled from the year before.

In 2009, 6,511 people were involved in Austin police cases, 807 were homeless.

In 2010, there were 7,329 cases 844 of which were homeless people.

In 2011, there were 8,405 total cases involving the mentally ill 682 of which were people identified as homeless.

Last year, there were 9,832 police cases with the mentally ill, also called the emotionally disturbed, and 1,168 of those cases were homeless.

Those numbers were presented by Austin police to Austin’s Public Safety Commission in its monthly meeting at Austin City Hall Monday night.

“The big part to fix everything is to have the resources available to treat these individuals so they are on the road to wellness so they're not calling us when they're in need or crisis”, said Sgt. Michael King with Austin police.

Emergency responders offered commissioners several theories on why we’re seeing an increase in mental health cases from population growth to severe state budget cuts to agencies who help those with mental health issues.

“I think we have a very fragmented mental health system. Officers are one little piece of the puzzle”, King said.

Austin Public Safety Commissioners are inviting mental health advocates, area hospital representatives, and homeless advocates to attend its next meeting in February in an effort to find solutions to the city’s growing mental health problems.

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