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VERIFY: Has the reduced Austin police budget affected the city's homicide rate?

This week, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin) claimed reducing Austin police's budget by $150 million resulted in a "spike" in homicides.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin) posted two graphics on Twitter claiming "homicide cases in Austin have spiked by 50% since Austin PD saw a $150M cut in funds."

KVUE's Verify team looked at the numbers and found it's hard to determine that cause-and-effect relationship right now.

Austin City Council voted to redistribute $150 million away from Austin police into other public safety programs in an effort to "reimagine public safety." It's unclear exactly to what timeframe McCaul was referring, but the vote happened in August 2020.

Between August 2020 and January 2021, there were four more homicides than August 2019 to January 2020, which is 20% higher. Year-over-year for 2020 compared to 2019, homicides were higher by a little more than 50% as well.

RELATED: Texas senator files bill aimed at preventing cities from defunding police

The City's reallocation of funding was not done all at once and is not finished yet. Immediately after the vote in August, $21 million moved away from APD's budget into other programs or departments. The rest would be redistributed throughout the 2021 fiscal year, ending in October 2021, and beyond.

RELATED: Austin Police Association claims police officers are resigning because of budget cuts. Here's what the data says

Prior to the vote in August, homicide rates year-over-year were technically a higher percentage than after the vote. At the same time from August 2020 to January 2021, Austin police were arresting fewer people than the year before except for the month of December.

The bottom line is there were more homicides in 2020 than in 2019, and there were more homicides from August 2020 to January 2021, after the City Council vote, than that same time the previous year. However, it's hard to draw the conclusion the homicide rate is up strictly because of reallocating police funding. Some of that funding actually keeps some departments together, just placed under a different area of Austin's city government, for example: the city's crime lab.


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