Monday, March 27, 2023

City Announces Partnership with Austin Police and Texas Department of Public Safety to Improve Response Times and Increase Safety

City of Austin leaders today announced a plan they expect will improve safety, decrease traffic fatalities, improve police response time, and reduce crime in the Capital City, thanks to a partnership with the State of Texas. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will provide state troopers and Special Agents who will focus on violent crime and traffic issues, but will also provide backup for other emergency situations and increased presence throughout the community.

“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.”  

In conversation with Watson, both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick helped forge the partnership. DPS troopers, who have statewide jurisdiction, have also provided additional support in cities like Dallas and San Antonio to reduce crime rates. 

Like many cities across the nation, the Austin Police Department (APD) is currently facing unprecedented staffing challenges. Interim City Manager Jesús Garza and Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon have implemented innovative recruitment and retention strategies, but while the efforts to build back and build up the police force are underway, the DPS will provide additional resources to support APD’s safety efforts.  

“Public safety is at the very core of what we do in city government, and we must get it right,” Garza said. “We’ve moved quickly to address staffing issues - recruit new officers, retain experienced officers, and staff up in our 9-1-1 call centers. But those efforts take time, and we can’t wait to make sure Austinites feel safe.”  

In order to manage staffing shortages, Chacon has been proactive and innovative in strategically reassigning officers to patrol to provide police presence across the community. But that reallocation means pulling from officers assigned to traffic, parks, DWI, and other specialized units, stretching limited resources across a large and growing city. 

Chacon pointed out that traffic fatalities and gun crime are on the rise in Austin. 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 and the increased presence of officers in the community – both DPS and APD – will provide a strong deterrent to criminal activity. 

“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.”