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Travis County District Attorney addressing rise in gun violence with 4-step plan

(District Attorney's Office/Facebook)

With local leaders and victims of violent crime alongside him, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza announced a four-step plan on Tuesday aimed at addressing the rise in gun violence in Austin.

The plan, which was made by partnering with violence intervention specialists and others, merges different city and county offices to both prevent gun violence before it happens and support those that are affected. Here are the four steps:

  • Use both traditional and innovative prosecution strategies for sentencing people charged with gun crimes.
  • Work with community members to prevent gun violence by creating, supporting, and implementing intervention and prevention programs.
  • Take guns out of the hands of those at high risk for committing an act of gun violence in an intimate partner relationship.
  • Support programming to help survivors and families of the victims of gun violence.

Gun violence in Austin has led to the highest number of homicides in a single year this year even with a month left in 2021. The Austin Police Department has come under scrutiny as it faces staffing shortages that led to the department limiting their 911 call responses to situations where there is an immediate threat.

The District Attorney's office formed the major crimes and homicide unit, which would ensure those cases are handled by "the most experienced prosecutors." He said the office has secured over 500 indictments for murder, sexual assault and gun violence and that over 70% of firearm-related offenses have been charged or resulted in a conviction.

"If we are serious about ending violence in our community, we have to do more than punish people after they have caused harm. We have to do all we can to prevent violence before it happens," Garza said.

The efforts to prevent gun violence lie in the recently-established Office of Violence Prevention from the city of Austin. Garza said for those efforts to be effective, the District Attorney's office has to support that work by sharing data and resources with the city.

Additionally, the work doesn't just lie in prosecuting and preventing violent crime, but by stopping the cycle of crime itself.

"Too often our criminal justice system fails victims of violent crime, and when we fail victims of violent crime, we perpetuate a cycle of trauma that often leads to future violence," Garza said.

The District Attorney's office established a stand-alone unit of trauma-informed counselors and a trauma recovery center to help victims heal in the hopes of preventing future violence.

"I am confident that through a collaborative approach that we can continue to ensure Austin is a safe place to live," Garza said.

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