The Austin Police Department reported Monday that certain violent crimes are on the rise, including the murder rate, which has increased 50% this year.
More alarmingly, there was a 400% increase in murders during the month of October compared to October 2019 due to a particularly violent weekend. Last month, three murders occurred in Austin over one weekend, bringing the annual total to at least a 10-year high.
Aggravated assaults are also on the rise, having increased by 19% year-over-year, according to APD data, and may point more definitely to a trend.
The department distinguishes between family violence and non-family violence aggravated assaults. The latter category grew even more dramatically, rising 32%. Within that subset, those incidents involving firearms also increased around 43% in the third quarter of this year.
"Given then we're in the pandemic, it makes it that more challenging to ascertain whether things are trending or whether it's short-term volatility," APD Chief Data Officer Jonathan Kringen told the Public Safety Commission. "But I would say that the initial indication in that particular category—aggravated assault, non-family violence, with a weapon—looks to be a trend."
Kringen provided these numbers during a meeting of the city's public safety commission on Monday. Some commissioners raised questions about the intent of his presentation, which was supposed to provide a quarterly—rather than a monthly—update.
"The way that this issue of crime data points has been laid over the issue of what our City Council funds as far as public safety and where its priorities are, a lot of people want to take the 400% murder uptick … and relate that to the City Council's decision to reprioritize how it pays for public safety," Vice Chair Rebecca Webber said.
Austin City Council voted unanimously in August to cut the APD budget by approximately $20 million—or about 5%—including eliminating funding for three planned police cadet classes. Council members also put an additional $130 million into two transitional funds that will allow several of APD's traditional duties to continue while officials decide which to move out from under police oversight.
Just last month, Kringen warned that identifying trends from a limited amount of data—such as for murders, which occur rarely—is difficult and unscientific.
Although Kringen qualified his opinion as "unscientific" given the current data, he did say that he expects the budget cuts to affect public safety.
"My sense is that over time ... with less policing we will see more crime," he said.
Although the murder and aggravate assault rates have grown, overall violent crime decreased 14% in the month of October compared to October 2019 and is down 1% year-over-year.
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."