Austin homicide rates lower than Texas & U.S. averages since around 1998
Raw homicide numbers are irresponsible, do not paint full picture or take into account population growth
Prop A proponents’ data doesn’t tell the full story
AUSTIN, TX – Today, the No Way on Prop A campaign releases data from criminal justice expert Dr. Bill Spelman that provides important context for the discussion surrounding Austin’s homicide rates. The graphs provided compare Austin’s homicide rates to national and statewide averages and look at sworn officer rates over time.
“The homicide increase is large and alarming,” said Dr. Spelman, a former Austin council member and University of Texas professor. “We need to act. But this is a national problem: Most big cities across the country have seen huge increases in homicide. And there’s no correlation between the number of sworn officers and homicide rates, in the U.S. or in Austin. Experience shows that if police, other City agencies, social services, businesses, and the public all work together, we can solve this problem. But Prop A won’t work, and by diverting resources from other City agencies and social services – and probably requiring tax increases – Prop A would make it harder to keep us safe.”
This unfunded mandate forces Austin to spend hundreds of millions dollars more on the police department each year. If it passes, the City will have to cut mental health care and other services, and lay off firefighters, medics, and 911 call takers. That’s not how to protect public safety.
Comparing U.S., Texas, and Austin Homicide Rates over Time
In the U.S., homicide rates increased in the 1960s and early 1970s, stayed high until 1991, then dropped quickly. National homicide rates appeared to increase during the pandemic, but are still about half what they were in 1991.
In Texas, homicide rates changed in roughly similar ways over time. Texas homicide rates were much higher than in the U.S. until the mid-1990s, but have been about the same since then.
Austin follows the Texas pattern, except that Austin’s homicide rates have been consistently lower than the U.S. and Texas since 1998 or so. This is still true despite the recent homicide increases.
From the Austin American-Statesman: “Often overlooked in Austin’s discussion of crime is that while homicides have increased, overall violence has gone down slightly comparing the first seven months of 2021 to the same period in 2020. From January to July this year, there were 11,729 violent crimes compared with 12,262 in the same period in 2020, a 4% decrease, Austin police statistics show. The City counts assaults, rape, and murder and manslaughter as violent crimes.”
Property crimes were also down in 2020 and the first eight months of 2021. The same thing happened to cities around the country: homicide and assaults up, other violent crimes and property crimes down. Nationwide, cities are dealing with the same, very specific problem. Austin is consistently ranked safer than Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio and ranked one of the safest cities in the U.S.
Comparing U.S., Texas, and Austin Sworn Officer Rates over Time
Nationally, sworn officer rates increased steadily from 1960 to 2000 or so, then dropped slightly.
Texas and Austin sworn officer rates also increased steadily from 1960 to 2000, kept going up for another ten years, and have dropped slightly since then. So Texas and Austin have been following the national pattern, but are running about ten years behind. Austin (and, to a lesser extent, Texas) have fewer officers per capita than the U.S. as a whole.
Austin has maintained a lower sworn officer rate than the U.S. average and has still had a lower homicide rate since 1998.
Prop A creates arbitrary staffing requirements that the following graphs expose to be meaningless. The City Budget Office collaborated with the Austin Police Department to determine that Prop A requires the hiring of 400-885 officers over the next five years, therefore requiring far more officers than 2 per thousand of population. This is because Prop A requires 35% of police officer time not be spent on responding to 911 calls. This requires more significant police hiring. These official estimates from the police department and budget office show that Prop A requires the City to budget for 2.13-2.5 officers per thousand of city population (charted below at 2.3). Currently, the City employs between 1.6 and 1.7 officers per thousand of population, while maintaining one of the lowest violent crime rates among the big cities in the U.S.
Comparing U.S. and Austin Homicide Rates and Sworn Officer Rates over Time
There is no apparent relationship nationally or locally between sworn officers and homicide rates from 1960 through 2021.
The increase in homicides since the pandemic began is not significantly different between cities with many police officers and those with fewer police officers per capita. Austin is in the middle bar, below.
If it passes, Prop A will be bad for public safety. The City will be forced to cut mental health care and other services, and lay off firefighters, medics, and 911 call takers.
No Way on Prop A is a diverse opposition campaign focused on exposing the truth about Prop A and the extreme harm it would cause to Austin if passed. Learn more at NoWayPropA.com.