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As the murder rate in Austin hits a 10-year high and social turmoil is bubbling, it is reasonable to wonder how dangerous the city really is. According to a report from the FBI, Austin could be more dangerous, but that doesn't mean it's the safest.
According to the FBI's 2019 National Incident-Based Reporting System, Austin consistently falls around the middle of the deck among 21 similarly-sized cities with populations over 400,000. The report presents data about victims, known offenders, relationships for offenses and arrest data reported in 23 categories with 52 offenses, as well as 10 additional categories for which only arrest data is collected.
The data shows that Austin ranked 12th in crimes against society, 11th in crimes against persons and safest for crimes against property. Four other Texas cities were included in the list—Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Arlington—and frequently ranked safer than the capital city.
Of the 79,931 crimes committed within Austin city limits, 20,135 were crimes against persons, 7,294 were crimes against society and 52,502 were crimes against property in 2019, the report for this year.
In crimes against persons, Austin ranked at 11, below Fort Worth and Dallas, in fifth and 10th place, respectively. Houston and Arlington ranked 13th and 18th in the same category.
According to the FBI, 50.4% of victims involved in the crime against them knew their perpetrator, 24.4% were related to the offender and 25.1% were classified as strangers across the U.S.
Austin ranked below Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, in sixth, eighth and 11th place, in crimes against society, while Arlington ranked 20th.
The report also showed women are slightly higher targets for a crime against society, a business or an institution at 51%, compared to men targeted at 48.2% of the time.
Crimes against property make up 59.6% of crimes across the national board, also Austin's highest offense. Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas ranked above Austin in third, sixth and seventh places, whereas Houston came in 14th.
Offenders of crimes against property tend to be white (51.9%), male (61.7%) and between 16-30 years old (38%), across U.S. data.
Though this year's report only showed the data for 22 cities, APD said as other cities transition from using Uniform Crime Reporting data to NIBRS data before January 2021, more cities will be added and will reflectmore accurate data.
Crime in 2020 has fluctuated, seeing small decreases in crimes like gambling, pocket-picking and commercial sex acts. Some outlets have pointed to such small drops, citing Austin crime is improving year-over-year, or that the crime cost per capita, $1,052, is lower than that of other cities.
In another study done by MoneyGeek, Austin ranked as the 9th safest "large" city based on its low cost of crime per capita.
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After reaching Stage 4 last week of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, Austin-Travis County is now at the Stage 5 threshold with a seven-day average of 50 hospitalizations and dwindling ICU capacity.
While unenforceable under Gov. Greg's Abbott order against local mandates, vaccinated individuals are asked to choose drive-through and curbside options, outdoor activities, social interactions with limited group sizes, as well as social distance and wearing masks indoors. Partially or unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid gatherings, travel, dining and shopping, choose curbside and delivery options, as well as wear a mask on essential trips.
Flashing back to early-pandemic times, hospitals are at critical capacity—the 11 county Trauma Service Region of 2.3 million people is fluctuating at 16 staffed beds, according to APH.
In a statement on behalf of Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's Healthcare, a spokesperson said that hospitals are asking residents to "help us and each other" by getting vaccinated and continuing to utilize safety practices to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the statement, a "longstanding" nurse staffing challenge combined with the recent COVID-19 spike is putting "extraordinary pressure" on hospital systems.
Along with the unmitigated spread of the virus in unvaccinated, the more contagious Delta variant is also to blame for the spike in cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID hospitalizations in the Austin area reached the Stage 5 threshold of 50 on Friday, triggering local health officials to ask residents to take action.
Local hospitals have a "surge plan" that includes utilization of "all available patient care space and employees within our hospitals and in other settings" that will go into effect when capacity is hit, according to the statement.
The hospitals are working on sourcing supplemental staff and emphasized that emergency care will still be available but it may involve patient transfers "in order to provide the most appropriate care."
Healthcare systems have hit this threshold previously during the pandemic: the city held an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center from January to March of this year.
"Our responsibility during this pandemic continues to be balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19, while making sure patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care," the statement said. "We do not want to see necessary non-COVID care delayed as it was during the early stages of the pandemic."
This story has been updated to after publication to include that Austin has reached the Stage 5 threshold.
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Austin legend Willie Nelson will perform at the Texas Capitol today, his first large performance since the pandemic began, closing out a four-day long march across Central Texas to build support for federal voting protections.
Organized by The Poor People's Campaign, the march began in Georgetown on Wednesday and will end with a 10 a.m. rally at the Capitol featuring appearances from former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Rev. Dr. William Barber.
Willie Nelson (with Charlie Sexton & friends) will play a free concert at the Poor People's Campaign march for democracy & justice in Austin this Saturday! https://t.co/zZSA0BpbWA
Sign up to join us and see Willie at 10am Saturday: https://t.co/KrDPIFIvST
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 29, 2021
The rally calls on Congress to "stop attacks on democracy" by ending the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and pass permanent protections for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Nelson denounced election law proposals gaining traction in red states, such as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 in Texas, which 55 House Democrats foiled by fleeing to Washington, D.C., on July 12.
The bills would require additional ID verifications for mail-in ballots, allow partisan poll watchers "free movement" and prohibit elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who didn't request one.
"Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are unAmerican and are intended to punish people of color, the elderly and disabled," Nelson said. "If you can't win by playing the rules, then it's you and your platform–not everyone else's ability to vote."
The march is in the spirit of the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which protested the blocking of Black Americans' right to vote by Jim Crow laws.