Property crimes were up in April over last year, but violent crimes were down, as Austin residents settled deeper into quarantine mode during the first full month the city was shut down to avoid spread of the coronavirus, according to a new report from Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.
The April numbers, released this week in the Chief's Monthly Crime Report, count the number of times police were called for crimes ranging from homicide to gambling.
They appear to tell the story of a city hunkering down and staying off the streets—with fewer crimes like pick-pocketing and shoplifting, fewer violent incidents, and more property crimes that are easier done with no one around.
There's also an overall 38% drop, compared with April 2019, in crimes typically encountered by patrols or neighborhood watch groups: weapons violations, drug charges, prostitution, gambling and other violations known as "crimes against society."
"It all has to do with people not being outside," said Austin police Det. Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association. "They're locked up and scared to go outside. I think the more you see people going out and feeling comfortable leaving the house, the more crime you'll see."
When the lockdown began in mid-March, police saw an uptick in violence, which they attributed to tensions boiling over in the early days of the pandemic.
In April, violent crime dropped, dipping some 13% below last year's rate.
Casaday said those changes could be attributed to regular statistical swings, less reporting and fewer opportunities.
The sharpest decline in violence, both from March to April and over last year's numbers, came in simple assaults, which commonly occur during bar fights and muggings—no deadly weapons and no major injuries.
But with no bars open and fewer people roaming the streets, these types of attacks were down from 933 in March to 791 in April. The numbers are similar when compared with April 2019.
Casaday said the lack of nightlife activity is a clear contributor to that drop, likely short lived.
"Once you start seeing the bars open up, I think you'll see more of that," he said.
Property crimes like robberies, arsons, burglaries, auto thefts and car break-ins saw significant increases from the same month and time span as last year.
Manley said a large chunk of those are typically perpetrated by teenagers, who now have no school or activities to occupy their time.
"With the kids not being in school and a lot of the parents working, it's a good mix for property crime," he said.
Asked whether economic desperation is a factor, Manley said he hasn't seen that yet.
"But the longer this goes on, and the more people that become homeless or without a paycheck, I would expect those types of things to increase," he said.
- Restaurants and retailers, movies and museums: Some life returns ... ›
- Austin to extend stay-at-home orders—including unenforceable ... ›
- Like 'an outdoor crime scene after it had already rained:' APD ... ›
Despite the formal cancelation of today's protest at the Texas State Capitol, hundreds of people gathered along 11th Street and marched to Austin City Hall and back. Some shut down I-35 for the second day in a row, and Austin police used tear gas and beanbag rounds in an effort to move people off the roadway.
The police form a line on Cesar Chavez, stopping the demonstrators marching from City Hall. s3.amazonaws.com
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.
- UT plans on Longhorns football in fall 2020 - austonia ›
- Texas A&M, University of Texas systems expect to reopen in the fall ... ›
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.
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.
- Up next: gyms, yoga studios weigh cost of reopening - austonia ›
- 'Cooped-up' Texans visit McKinney Falls on first day of reopening ... ›
- Reopening Austin offices plan for one-way foot traffic, sanitizing ... ›
- 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.
- Austin musicians in dire straits as pandemic keeps doors closed on ... ›
- Austinites seek quarantine companions as animal shelters work to ... ›