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.
The University of Texas-Austin continued its march toward a new normal on Friday, as university President Gregory Fenves marked his last day of leadership after five years in office—the final two months of it dominated by sweeping pandemic-era changes on campus.
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Protests over police killings planned for Austin this weekend following widespread demonstrations across U.S.
At least two protests are planned in Austin this weekend over the recent killings of black men by police: Mike Ramos, who was fatally shot by an Austin Police Department officer on April 24 in Southeast Austin, and George Floyd, who died in police custody on Monday after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck. Both events were filmed.
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As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:
Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.
Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.
- Reopening today: the zoo (masks required), water parks (advanced tickets required), driver's license offices (appointments required).
- As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread to cities around the county, a demonstration drawing attention to both Floyd and Mike Ramos is planned for Austin this weekend.
- With local businesses concerned they can't make a profit at limited capacity, the city council may soon allow the use of sidewalks and parking lots to increase it, CBS Austin reports.
- KUT notes that, ultimately, it's up to voters to decide who votes by mail.
- Aaron Franklin will be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, writes Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly, just as his restaurant faces its biggest challenge yet.
'This has dwarfed anything else we've seen': Nonprofits adapt to soaring need, fewer volunteers and a fundraising slump
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Austin, the Central Texas Food Bank has seen a tenfold increase in food costs.
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