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'Keeping Austin Safe' | APD partners with Texas DPS to improve response times

Officials say the decision to receive DPS assistance comes as the department has struggled to respond quickly to 911 calls and perform routine patrols.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas state troopers will begin working with the Austin Police Department (APD) to help patrol the city amid what officials say is an urgent need caused by staffing shortages.

Police Chief Joe Chacon and DPS Director Col. Steve McCraw announced the arrangement, unprecedented for Austin, on Monday afternoon. Details were still being drafted Monday, but the partnership could include up to dozens of troopers on Austin streets, KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski learned.

The City said state troopers will focus on violent crime and traffic issues and will also provide backup for other emergency situations.

Officials say that the decision to receive DPS assistance comes as the department has struggled to respond quickly to 911 calls and perform routine patrols, such as traffic enforcement.

They say it is also the result of decisions by previous City administrations that included cutting cadet classes to revamp the curriculum and left the department with fewer officers. Austin police have also lost a significant number of officers in the past couple of years due to an unusually high volume of retirements.

Staff with the Austin Police Retirement System say as many as 80 officers could retire from APD by the end of April. For context, APD saw 97 retirements in all of 2022.

McCraw said there's power in numbers.

"We purposely don't talk how many troopers, but you'll certainly see a large number of these uniforms around town and they'll be other DPS officers," McCraw said.

“During my run for mayor, I promised we would make city government work better in providing basic services,” Mayor Kirk Watson said. “This is an example of that. It’s a common sense, practical response to a serious need and arose out of a positive working relationship between the Capital City and the Capitol of Texas. I want to thank the Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and DPS Director Steven McCraw for being willing to step in and work with us to ensure the safety of our shared constituents.” 

DPS troopers, who have statewide jurisdiction, have also provided additional support in cities like Dallas and San Antonio to reduce crime rates, the City of Austin said.

“Public safety is at the very core of what we do in city government, and we must get it right,” Interim City Manager Jesús Garza said. “We’ve moved quickly to address staffing issues – recruit new officers, retain experienced officers and staff up in our 911 call centers. But those efforts take time, and we can’t wait to make sure Austinites feel safe.”

When DPS helped out Dallas in 2019, some City leaders there called for their removal, as some felt the troopers were targeting certain groups. They made 9,000 traffic stops in South Dallas in seven weeks alone.

Chacon noted that traffic fatalities and gun violence are on the rise in Austin. In a statement, the City of Austin said positioning additional DPS troopers to patrol Austin’s streets and highways and respond to violent crime and traffic incidents will make a positive impact on safety.

“This is a wonderful resource and partnership that will provide relief to our APD officers and detectives who want nothing more than to focus on keeping Austin safe – whether that’s responding to domestic violence incidents, combatting DWI or investigating criminal activity,” Chacon said. “DPS has always provided valuable support – such as in the recent arrests of individuals involved in the February street takeovers – and providing these significant and strategic resources will help make Austin a safer city.”

Another issue that comes into play with staffing shortages also has to do with overtime expenditures for officers, as they are working around the clock in many cases.

In just the first quarter of the 2022-23 fiscal year, APD is nearing the approved overtime budget it has set, with three quarters left to factor in. A chart from APD's Public Safety Commission on Jan. 9 outlines these budgets:

Credit: APD Public Safety Commission

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