People in Austin are stressed out, financially unstable, and stuck at home with nowhere to go—and they're taking it out on each other, Austin police said Friday.
"The calls are getting much, much more violent," said Det. Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association. "People are at their wits' end. Our robbery and violent crime units are getting swamped with work."
Overall crime reports, mainly property crimes, saw a slight decline in March—the month when residents started social distancing to avoid spread of the coronavirus—compared with the same month last year, according to new city crime statistics released by Austin police this week.
By contrast, violent crimes increased between 15% and 25% as compared to March 2019, according to to the Chief's Monthly Crime Report for March 2020, which lists calls for service in the various city sectors.
Specific numbers for April were not available on Friday, but Casaday said officers began to see the violent upswing almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued in late March.
The biggest jump in violence from February, before people were told to stay home, to March could be seen in aggravated assaults, which include stabbings, drive-by shootings and other serious attacks.
Those crimes saw roughly a 25% increase from February to March, with a similar jump as compared to March 2019, according to the report. Robberies are up about 15% from this time last year, the report showed.
"People are pent up around each other," Casaday said. "When you're not able to go out and have any type of social release, I think this is what you're going to get."
Significantly, March is the month when tens of thousands of visitors descend on Austin for SXSW—historically resulting in more targets for crimes as well as more people committing them.
SXSW was canceled last month, but the numbers are still slightly higher in some categories than March last year, when SXSW attendees partied for more than two weeks.
Homicides are double for the year what they were by now last year, though that increase has been seen monthly since the beginning of the year, according to the report. There were five homicides in March, and four in February, the report said.
Burglaries, car break-ins, shoplifting, theft, vandalism and pick-pocketing are all down between 7% and 36% from this month last year, the report said.
Part of that could be the decreased crowds due to the absence of SXSW tourists, but it also can be credited to people staying home all day, thwarting break-ins and similar crimes, Casaday said.
"Right now is not a time in Texas to be burglarizing homes," he said.
Austin FC is one seat closer to opening the doors to its new stadium for the 2021 Major League Soccer season.
I'm very proud and pleased to tell you that the Austonia team has been selected as a finalist for a nationwide award—Best Emerging (New) Publisher, from the Local Independent Online News Publishers association, the industry group for local digital news sites like ours.
View the 2020 LION awards finalists here.
Recognition like this from our peer group motivates us to work even harder on our mission of connecting you to our ever-changing city.
Thanks to each of you for supporting us. If you like what we're doing, you can help us by forwarding articles to your friends, posting on social media and signing up for our daily AM newsletter.
By Stacy Fernandez
Texas joined the Trump administration's lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech giant of monopolizing the search engine market and controlling how online ads are bought and sold, according to the suit filed Tuesday morning.
Researchers at the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin predict there is a 96% chance the COVID-19 pandemic is growing in Austin.
- Flu season: Austin health officials are focused on vaccines - austonia ›
- Austin COVID cases, hospitalizations decline despite recent uptick ... ›
- Travis County sees decline in COVID-19 cases amid reopening ... ›
- Everything we know about COVID-19 in Austin right now - austonia ›
- COVID-19 'does spread silently' as Austin hits record high - austonia ›
Popular podcaster—and new Austin resident—Joe Rogan canceled all podcast episodes for this week just days after the controversial music artist Kanye West teased that he would be on the show.
- Joe Rogan's new home is a $14 million mansion on Lake Austin ... ›
- Joe Rogan posts podcast studio as he makes move to Austin ... ›
- EXCLUSIVE: Joe Rogan teases new Texas podcast studio; locals ... ›
- The names behind the Joe Rogan podcast studio - austonia ›
- Timeline of Joe Rogan moving to Austin - austonia ›
The parent company of the Austin American-Statesman is reportedly asking some employees to accept voluntary buyouts.
- Citizen smartphone app already has 50,000 Austin users - austonia ›
- Austin social media App TUBBR launched - austonia ›
- 7 Austin American-Statesman newsroom staffers laid off - austonia ›
About 50,000 Austin-area users have already downloaded Citizen, a smartphone app that reports real-time police and emergency medical threats. Austin is already one of Citizen's most popular cities since the company soft-launched here late last year.
- Empty streets = lower crime but Austin police say it won't last - austonia ›
- Attorneys for Austin riot police, Ramos shooter say 'zero crimes ... ›
- Austin has 53 percent more homicides in first seven months ... ›
- Save Austin Now calls on attorney in fight over Austin no-camping ... ›
- Austin American-Statesman offers employees voluntary buyouts - austonia ›