Austin may want to jettison its “Keep Austin Weird” motto for a more timely one: Keep Austin from bleeding to death.
Local TV station Fox 7 reports that it has analyzed crime data and come to a startling conclusion: Austin is now a dangerous place. Homicide is way up.
Our analysis shows a 13 percent decline in the homicide rate per 100,000 since 2000 and a 10 percent decrease in the homicide rate since 2010, but a 75 percent increase in the homicide rate since 2015. For 2019 to 2020, FOX 7 Austin used population projection data from the City of Austin and found a 32 percent increase in rate. It is important to note there are still two months left in the year.
“I really contribute a lot of it to the new wave of not wanting to prosecute,” said Casaday.
Casaday is Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday. Austin has declined to prosecute some lower-level crimes and went out of its way not to prosecute riot-related crimes from this past summer, so he probably has a point.
Mayor Steve Adler, perched in his penthouse, is in denial.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Austin Mayor Steve Adler for comment on the data Saturday. Adler was not available. On October 18, he told FOX 7 Austin “the suggestion that Austin is a dangerous city is just flat out wrong.”
There’s rhetoric and there’s data. The data is not on the mayor’s side. And this mayor isn’t even all that good at the talking.
It didn’t have to be this way. Austin was hippie-weird and cowboy-bold but mostly harmless not too long ago. It was a great place to live, grab a bite, and watch a band. It had local boy Matthew McConaughey (still does) and sometimes the Longhorns win. Tailgaters always made game day a festival.
That was before it all went quickly downhill.
Adler, city council members Greg Casar, Jimmy Flannigan, the whole gang, listened exclusively to hardcore left-wing activists and their alternative media sycophants, and never once listened to the police, to homeowners, to business owners, to the local news stations or talk radio, or anyone else. They have adopted two measures that surely contribute to the city’s swift deterioration.
In the summer of 2019, the Democrat city council voted to allow homeless camping practically anywhere in Austin (except city hall). Soon enough, camps popped up everywhere, under many underpasses, and in medians, just about anywhere a tent or two can be pitched. I was working on a home improvement project over the weekend and on the drive to the hardware store, I noticed a new one. A man had pitched his encampment underneath a mixmaster and next to his tent, he had what looked like a workshop bench on which he had an array of cooking utensils and what appeared to be items that could easily be used as weapons — objects that looked like bats and a couple of large knives.
Crime did jump noticeably after the homeless camping ordinance. Videos of homeless people attacking Austinites in broad daylight went viral several times. One neighborhood made a short movie depicting its plight.
Mayor Adler and his merry band of activist misfits pressed on, though, and in the summer of 2020 they doubled down by defunding the police in the midst of the pandemic and rolling riots.
Mayor Adler insists that’s not really what they did, and he has insisted he has clawed back some funding, but the city council did cut about $140 to $150 million out of the police department’s roughly $430 million budget. That meets any reasonable definition of defunding the police.
Here at PJ, we reported exclusively on what the cuts looked like. They’re not pretty, and they’re also not done. Police officers are waiting out the end of the year when the cuts kick in, at which time many say they will bolt. Some may hang around for a while longer looking for jobs, but with hiring freezes everywhere thanks to the pandemic, that’s tough. So they will either stay in a city in which the mayor and city council do not have their backs — meaning they’ll be less proactive about taking risks and fighting crime — or they’ll leave their police careers altogether. Austin won’t backfill to replace them. Three cadet classes are quashed. Those cadets, some of whom moved to Austin for the job, told local media they feel “lied to.” Because they were. So it’s likely to get worse.
But there’s hope. Councilmember Flannigan faces a runoff in December and has a fierce and funded challenger on his hands, Mackenzie Kelly. She’s young, smart, and dynamic and is organizing block walks and getting the word out that she’ll fight for Austin and restore some common sense to the place.
From outside Austin, former Police Chief Art Acevedo may be weighing his options. He appeared on KOKE-FM late last week and addressed our story about his comments blasting Democrats and specifically the Austin City Council for being socialists and for defunding the police. Somebody has to save the city from itself. The city’s former top cop, who is originally from Cuba and despises socialists, would be a good bet.
Austin matters to Texas, and leadership matters to Austin. In its current iteration of city hall, Austin has poor leadership that is hurting the city — and going by the statistics Fox 7 analyzed — getting people killed.