News Style: Austin Faces Growing Population

Oct. 2, 2013

     Austin is now ranked the second safest city in the U.S.according to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report,which was released today. This new ranking is an advancement from the third place position Austin held from the 2011 statistics.

     The report is based on the 2012 crime data, which shows that even though there is a small increase in murder and aggravated assault for 2012, overall, violent crimes are down by two percent.On the other hand, property theft is up by three percent. The report ranked Austin 26th nationally in regards to property crime. Last year Austin ranked no. 27th for property theft.

The new ranking comes to Austin during a time of the rapid population growth, something the Austin Police Department strives to keep up with every day, said Assistant Chief of Police Brian Manley.

You see it in response times…the fact is when an emergency call comes in and if we don’t have enough officers on the street, and you’re the person making the call because your life is in danger…60 seconds can make a huge difference in the outcome [of a situation].” Manley said.

     The population growth also leads to concerns, such as stress levels, about the officers, themselves.When there are less officers available, working overtime can become an issue as well as balancing the effectiveness of paying someone time and a half.

We also worry about our officers getting burnt out with working too much, because that leads them to be less observant and less cautious while in their tour of duty,” Manley said.

     In the past,Austin has used the guideline of having two officers to serve every 1000 citizens. It may be good in theory but it does not always work in practice Manley said. In some divisions where there are specialized units, a part of those officers are stuck behind desks and not out on the “front line,” said Manley.

     On average the police department loses four to five officers a month due to termination, retirement and resignations. The classes of cadets Austin’s police academy graduates are often just to fill the positions that come open throughout the year.

     “It does not even address the issue of adding more officers to the force to handle Austin’s growing population.” Manley said.

Last year, Austin paid $100,000 to have a study done by the Police Executive Research Forum to see how many officers Austin should have to handle population growth. The results of the 133 page report gave these recommendations to implement by 2017:

  • 155 officers
  • 78 detectives
  • 24 sergeants
  • 257 total open positions

     Only 29 of those positions can be filled by civilians, according to the study, which still leaves the need for 228 new officers.

The city council just can’t just turn around and give us those officers, we know that, cost is prohibitive. And we couldn’t train that many officers in a year, because the quality of training would go down.” Manley said.

So instead we’re training our officers to work smarter, not harder… and we’re always looking for new technology to bring in,” Manley said.

     This week also marks the activation of ten new High Activity Location Observation (or HALO) cameras to run along Rundberg Lane. The police force has also has recently purchased a new helicopter with an infra-red thermal device, which will help in pursuing suspects, said Manley.

     Even the current crime rates for 2013 are showing to be across the board lower than they were a year ago according to the chief reports put out each month by Austin Police Department.

I’ve always felt safe here. Austin just has this image that attracts like-minded people with the same values to it. The Austin community really just doesn’t have the tolerance or mindset for violence is just not one of those things,” Joshua Davis, 35, an Austinite said.

We hope that our recruiting efforts will continue to yield to us the candidates that reflect the demographics we serve across racial, ethnic and gender boundaries… We’ve done a good job in the past- and will continue to do so in the future.” Manley said.

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