Austin leaders provided an update April 14 on Austin Police Department's first weeks of partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The takeaway:
  • The DPS is patrolling in areas that are identified to have high rates of violent crime and areas with excessive speeding, DWIs and traffic fatalities, which include US 183, MoPac and the segment of I-35 near downtown.
  • The DPS has made 4,016 traffic stops so far. Tickets were issued in about 25% of stops.
  • Violent crime dropped 25% in the first week of DPS patrols, according to Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon. There were an average of 89 violent crimes in Austin per week last year, and 67 violent crimes in the first week of DPS patrols.
  • Chacon said DPS support is arriving at a “critical time,” as the APD has over 300 vacancies, many of them patrol officers.
  • The program has no definite end date and comes at no cost to Austin.
What is DPS doing in Austin?

While the DPS and the APD operate under different policies, Chacon said they are in close alignment, and he has been meeting daily with Vincent Luciano, DPS regional director for Central Texas, to set policing expectations.

DPS troopers are enforcing traffic laws and violent crimes—not small amounts of marijuana or immigration issues—Chacon said, and DPS officials have been following the APD’s practice of mostly issuing citations for misdemeanors rather than arrests.

So far, the DPS and APD partnership has resulted in:
  • A 15% drop in calls for emergency assistance citywide
  • The APD’s average response time to emergency assistance calls dropped 23 seconds citywide
  • 96 felony arrests made
  • 289 pounds of methamphetamine seized
  • 9 pounds of marijuana seized
  • 40 grams of heroin seized
  • 2 shotguns/rifles seized
  • 25 handguns seized
  • 16 stolen vehicles recovered
The APD will still be the main agency for traffic fatalities and violent crime, Chacon said, while the role of the DPS is to hold down the fort until the APD can arrive and lead the investigation.

Chacon said DPS support has already eased some of the rising police response times and increasing violence linked to short-staffing at the APD. Since the partnership began, the APD’s average response time to emergency calls in areas with a high volume of violence-related calls dropped about two minutes.

Having more visible law enforcement throughout the city has also likely deterred potential offenders, Chacon said.

Concerns from council

Austin City Council members Zo Qadri and Vanessa Fuentes have raised concerns over a lack of transparency on where DPS is patrolling, what arrests are being made and whether DPS will make local adjustments to its operating procedures. Council members will be briefed on the partnership on April 18.

The DPS will not release which areas are being patrolled for violent crime as part of their “tactical” approach, according to Jonathan Kringen, Austin Police chief data officer; however, they are using data to determine patrolling areas. The APD has requested demographic information related to traffic stops and arrests from the DPS, Kringen said, and it should arrive in the coming weeks.