Short-Staffed Police Department Asks Crime Victims to Skip Calling 911

( – Residents in the city of Austin, TX, are being instructed to call a non-emergency number instead of 911 if they are robbed near an ATM or a bank. The Austin Police Department is dreadfully understaffed amid skyrocketing crime rates. The APD does not currently have cops available to respond in person to robberies that are becoming commonplace. Residents are being asked to call 311 to make a police report or to submit a report online. The department is pulling detectives from their usual work to answer an overwhelming influx of 911 calls.

Staffing concerns became an issue in 2020 when the city council approved a budget cut of $150 million. The budget cut came during the “defund the police” movement. With the budget cuts and lack of support from the city council, it became increasingly difficult to retain officers who were already on the force as well as recruit new officers. APD also lost their chief of police, Joseph Chacon. Chacon retired from his position in August. Robert Henderson, the Chief of Staff, became the Interim Police Chief.

Thomas Villarreal, president of the Austin Police Association, blames the Austin City Council and Mayor for the staffing issues. He believes city officials have not taken the staffing shortage seriously and have shown little to no support for the department.

Residents have posted about their displeasure with the new policies necessitated by the lack of police officers. One of the posts indicated that citizens should be able to call 911 and have officers respond in person “within 15 minutes or less”.

A jewelry store owner, Daniel Schwieterman, claims it took him 10 days to get a response from police about a theft from his store. Schwieterman emphasized that the current system is “not working”. The city is neglecting and losing the police force while asking business owners not to have weapons in their stores to protect themselves.

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