Following a tumultuous scene downtown on Saturday night, several Austin City Council members are now reportedly speaking out about the police department’s vacancies and chronic difficulties at the 911 call center.
As hordes of people looked on, street racers took over an intersection at South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road.
The cars drifted dangerous in the center of the roadway while lighting off pyrotechnics.
During the disturbance, one officer was hurt and numerous police cars were destroyed.
Austin policy makers are directly responsible for the overall safety of their citizens & visitors. Looks like they failed to make the right decisions & continue to defund, destroy, & demoralize public safety. Austin was one of the safest cities, NOT anymore. @Austin_Policehttps://t.co/j6OTTQE1ct
Council Member Alison Alter told the Austin American-Statesman that she witnessed the street takeover and contacted 911, but she was then placed on hold for a shocking 28 minutes.
For some months, the Austin Police Department’s emergency communications section has been struggling with a personnel issue, with the 911 call center cutting its minimal staffing needs last August owing to historically high vacancy rates.
The average hold time for 911 calls in Austin in October was two and a half minutes.
In that same month, just roughly two-thirds of 911 calls were responded within 15 seconds, significantly short of the national target of 90% in 15 seconds or less.
Mayor Kirk Watson, who entered office last month, has not publicly commented on the street racing takeover.
During the 2020 riots, Austin’s city council and then-Mayor Steve Adler decided to cut APD spending by almost one-third right at the height of the “defund the cops” campaign.
An activist alliance organized by organisations such as the Austin Justice Coalition backed the vote.
The budget for the APD was subsequently restored to conform with a state legislation approved in 2021, but by then, officers had already left in significant numbers, specialized units had also been downsized or abolished, and cadet courses had been canceled, so the departing officers could not be replaced.