AUSTIN -- The Austin Police Department is reducing the budget for overtime in downtown Austin by more than two-thirds for 2014.
APD spent much of 2013 working to lower violent crime rates in downtown Austin after it hit a record high in 2012, but doing so was very expensive.
“For fiscal year 2013, Downtown Area Command (DTAC) alone spent over a million dollars on overtime just for downtown, which is probably about six times my normal budget,” said acting Downtown Commander Troy Officer.
Now the budget for overtime downtown is around $320,000 according to Assistant Chief Raul Munguia.
To break it down, APD approved $1.2 million in overtime funding in 2013, so that’s a 73 percent decrease in overtime funding in 2014.
Munguia tells KVUE that the cuts were necessary to allocate money to other departments that need it.
“I’ll give you an example: say the burglary unit, the detectives that handle all the burglaries, they did not have an overtime budget, and we actually shifted, I believe, $62,000 in there," Munguia said.
“I think what we’ll see as a result of that is more disorder downtown,” Austin Public Safety Commissioner Michael Lauderdale said in response to the cuts.
Lauderdale, along with the rest of the public safety commissioners, has pushed for city council to approve more funding for more officers.
“We do need more officers than we currently have, and I think there’s good reason to support more officers," Lauderdale said.
Last year, council approved funding for an additional 47 officers at APD, and 22 of those officers will be stationed downtown.
They're expected to be hired later this year.
Many of the public order initiatives police did downtown in 2013 have stopped because they were too expensive, with the exception of “Operation Safe Passage.”
That’s APD’s response to a video of a fight near Sixth Street and Interstate 35.
"Recently we saw that video that went viral. There’s been a response as far as personnel addressing some of those areas during the nighttime,” Munguia said.
Bill Brice with the Downtown Austin Alliance says they are confident the lower crime rate will continue this year.
"The police department at the January Commander’s Forum for the downtown area announced that the overtime funding for this current fiscal year is not what it was last year, but they gave assurance to the Downtown Austin Alliance and all of the other downtown stakeholders that whatever resources are necessary will be applied to keep downtown safe and violent crime trending downward,” said Brice.
A big test for Austin police will be SXSW. Historically, the single biggest jump in property crime downtown happens during the music and movie festival beginning in just two weeks.