Do Austin police investigate property crimes?

HomeAnalysisDo Austin police investigate property crimes?

Crime victims are frustrated with difficulties reporting their cases and a seeming lack of follow-up.

Photo of Imani Williams is inset with a picture of her stolen cargo bike.

When Imani Williams got home at 2am May 29th, she was exhausted from a long shift delivering UberEats meals on her electric cargo bike. She locked the 75-pound bike, brought the battery inside to charge, and went to bed.

For Williams, the bike was her livelihood, but it also represented “sustainability”—her effort not to contribute to Austin’s growing traffic problem. And it was a $2,800 investment.

When she woke up the next day, the bike was gone. Surveillance footage showed a man wearing a raincoat lugging away the bike, still locked and without its battery.

In an interview with the Bulldog, Williams said she initially hoped the bike could be recovered because it was bulky and couldn’t be ridden far. It was also registered with the city’s bike registry and with a national database that’s sometimes checked by pawn shops and other resellers.

But when Williams called 3-1-1 to report the bike stolen, a hotline staffer only took preliminary information and said that a police officer would follow up in two to three days. “When I reported the bike stolen they didn’t really ask me for the registration or the serial number or anything,” she said.

Three days later Williams did get a follow-up call, but she had difficulty communicating with the officer. Using the city’s online reporting tool was little better because, she said, “You can’t get past the first page of reporting the incident if you select that you have evidence. It tells you to dial 3-1-1.”

Williams is frustrated about how her case was handled. She says she wished the Austin Police Department had been more “efficient” in taking her report and had treated it with more urgency.

But her experience isn’t unique. Several other victims of recent property crimes told the Bulldog that they too had difficulty making reports and were frustrated by a seeming lack of follow-up.

Frustration with 3-1-1, APD

Like Williams, Todd Davidson woke up one morning to find his vehicle had been stolen—in this case an F-250 pickup truck with a trailer attached and about $12,000 worth of tools inside. He called the police and an officer came out right away and took a report.

But Davidson, a carpenter, said he later had difficulty following up with APD about the case and got the sense that investigators were “overwhelmed” by a recent surge in auto thefts. Davidson tried calling to get a copy of his police report and to speak with a detective assigned to his case. He was told that victims don’t normally speak with the detectives.

“I had questions, like what’s the likelihood of a vehicle turning up for someone in my situation. I wanted to know whether to spend my money to replace my truck and tools, or to wait a little bit.”

“It was difficult for me, especially over Covid, to try to get in touch with people. Different offices were closed. Most of the time whenever I called a certain branch of the police it just forwarded me to 3-1-1, who had no idea what I was talking about. It was a headache.”

About two months after the theft, Davidson got a call from an officer informing him that his truck had been found. It had been abandoned in a hotel parking lot and sat there for six weeks. Eventually the hotel called a tow company, which ran the plates and identified the vehicle as stolen.

Davidson collected the vehicle from a tow yard, and an officer met him there to snap a few photos of it. The officer didn’t try to take any fingerprints, and though he talked of pulling surveillance footage from the hotel parking lot, it’s not clear that he did that either.

‘They defunded us’

The officer told Davidson that the truck might have been recovered earlier had the city not ended its plate reader program. “We had plate readers in our cars that would constantly scan and they took those away. They defunded us and that went away,” the officer said, per Davidson.

The officer was referring to automatic license plate readers, which are mounted on patrol cars and automatically scan the surroundings for plate numbers that are then checked against a hot list of stolen vehicles, as well as vehicles associated with active warrants and AMBER alerts.

Greg Casar

Under a budget amendment initiated by Council Member Greg Casar last August, the city ended plate reader contracts worth about $114,000 and reinvested that money in social services. That decision came in response to demands from campaign groups like the Austin Justice Coalition, which argued that plate readers were “fraught with privacy issues.”

Critics of the technology say that police departments use plate readers to enforce petty violations like a failure to pay fines and fees, and that this burden of enforcement falls disproportionately on Blacks and Hispanics. The plate readers fit into a broader picture of overenforcement that “targets the poor” and a predatory criminal justice system, they argue.

But Davidson had a different take on it: “When I heard the officer tell me about the plate reader, that was a point that was legitimately frustrating to me. Because it really did feel like it was the city council and policies that were handcuffing the police.”

Surge in auto thefts

Davidson’s truck was one of 1,949 vehicles stolen in Austin through the first half of this year, according to police crime statistics. Auto thefts are up 9 percent through June this year, on top of a 31 percent surge last year. Similarly, thefts of auto parts rose 11 percent last year before surging 156 percent this year.

One factor driving the trend is an increase in the price of used vehicles, as well as the precious metals used in some vehicle parts. According to the latest Consumer Price Index, prices of used cars and trucks have jumped 45 percent over the past 12 months.

David Glawe

That makes autos a juicier target for thieves nationwide. According to David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), other factors include “disenfranchised youth that are unemployed, and outreach programs are shut down or limited due to COVID.”

“There is frustration and anger in society,” Glawe said, as quoted in a recent news release from the NICB. “We also are seeing public safety resource limitations and withdrawal of proactive policing due to budget constraints…Reversing this trend will take a coordinated effort.”

Notably, Austin is faring much worse than the national average. The city’s 31 percent increase in auto thefts last year was more than three times the national change of 9 percent.

Repeat burglaries

Accompanying the surge in auto thefts is a steady rise in burglaries in recent years. Among the recent victims is The Peddler bike shop in Hyde Park, which was hit five times so far this year. “Before 2021—16 years of business—I’ve never once had a problem,” owner AJ Camp told Austonia for a story on a spree of recent break-ins at bicycle shops.

Owners of three bicycle shops “say they see little action from Austin police,” Austonia reported. Part of the problem is that police don’t always have many clues to go on. At the Velorangutan shop off Ben White Boulevard, three thieves broke in in June, according to surveillance footage. They wore wide-brimmed hats, masks, and gloves to obscure their identities.

Owner Wesley Hayslip told the Bulldog that a Round Rock detective who was coordinating with area store owners identified a possible suspect using surveillance footage of a person who seemed to be casing the store not long before the burglary occurred. Beyond that, however, police didn’t have much to go on, making it difficult to secure a warrant, let alone a conviction.

Slam dunk case

But even in cases where there are clear leads, Austin police don’t always seem to have the capacity or inclination to pursue an investigation. One crime victim told the Bulldog that he gathered what he thought was overwhelming evidence, only to find that officers weren’t interested.

Photo of damage done to Dustin Durrance’s car by a driver who left the scene.

Dustin Durrance woke up May 3rd to find that his parked car had been totaled overnight, struck by a Mercedes that then fled the scene, according to surveillance footage from a neighbor. He called 3-1-1 to report the incident as a hit-and-run. An operator initially promised him a call back from APD within six hours, but it ended up taking three days.

By that time, Durrance had already tracked down the actual vehicle that had struck his car. Acting on a tipoff, he located a white Mercedes with heavy damage to the front. He obtained photos of the damage, surveillance footage of the collision, and even a witness statement from a passenger who had been inside the Mercedes at the time of the collision.

The crime that Durrance was trying to report was not a property crime per se but an offense under the Transportation Code, a hit-and-run with an unattended vehicle. Like theft or vandalism, that offense is a fairly low-level crime, a Class B misdemeanor—the sort of crime that’s not usually given the same investigative resources as, say, a robbery or a homicide.

Still, Durrance hoped that police would look into the case because he had so much evidence. He felt that the other driver should at least be questioned or get a slap on the wrist. However, the civilian APD employee who called him three days after the collision took only basic information. “I said, look, I’ve got a video, I’ve got a witness, I know who it is, I’ve got their address right now. I just need an investigator.” The caller responded, “If we need any of that stuff we will call you.”

Over the next few weeks Durrance followed up repeatedly with 3-1-1. Each time he was told that no investigator had been assigned. Like Williams, he was frustrated that he could initially only report basic information about his case and that nobody seemed interested in the details.

Eventually he got a call from an officer in the APD Highway Enforcement Command. Per Durrance, the officer said, “Do you know what’s going on in this city? No one is going to investigate this.”

“Basically this guy told me, we don’t have enough cops and cops are leaving the force every month and there’s nobody to replace them. And you can thank the city council for the fact that we’re not going to investigate this crime.”

After that, APD sent Durrance a form letter explaining how difficult it is to pursue charges in such cases. The letter said he could still submit a written damage estimate from a body shop if he wished to pursue the matter, but by that point Durrance felt sufficiently discouraged not to try. Durrance ended up negotiating a payout from the other driver’s insurance company.

Some might say that that’s exactly how such matters should be handled—as a civil issue, not a criminal one. But Durrance still feels that the other driver “got away with it.” He said, “A ticket would be great. I don’t need somebody to sit in jail for a hit-and-run where no one was seriously injured. But I’ve received tickets for having a beer while I was playing disc golf, so surely you can give a ticket to the guy who totaled my car in a hit-and-run that was likely a DUI.”

What’s changed?

These anecdotes raise questions about the extent to which property crimes are still being investigated by APD, as well as APD’s victim communications.

Of course, the stories collected by the Bulldog are just that—mere anecdotes. They don’t prove the existence of a trend, nor do they necessarily show that anything has changed in comparison to years past. Police have never investigated every petty theft, nor employed forensic methods for minor crimes.

Kathy Mitchell

“APD has not focused on property crime generally in years,” said Kathy Mitchell, a criminal justice reform advocate and policy coordinator for Just Liberty. “None of this is new, and none of it is explained by recent changes at APD.”

She added, “This became a big issue back in 2012 and 2013 when clearance rates for property crime hovered around five to eight percent. What the city discovered, much to everyone’s consternation, was that the investment in police and forensics it would take to increase clearance rates to even 25 percent was astronomical. A huge outlay for a relatively small gain, and meanwhile the increase in lab test requirements alone was eyepopping.”

Ken Casaday

On the other hand, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said that the council’s budget cuts last year have impacted property crime enforcement: “The defunding and moving of jobs has severely hampered our ability to take property reports over the phone.”

A rise in shootings and other serious crimes have put police under greater pressure and forced them to prioritize. The council last year imposed a freeze on cadet classes and slashed funding for the academy for the entire 2020-2021 fiscal year. That has resulted in about 150 vacancies at APD on top of 150 vacant positions cut from the force last year.

Council reversed course with a resolution May 6th, authorizing the cadet academy to resume June 7th, after an overhaul of the curriculum. But the first class of new cadets won’t graduate until January 2022. In the meantime, more officers are quitting or retiring, resulting in a widening gap.

“When I was in staffing five years ago, the attrition rate was four to five officers per month. We are now losing 15 to 20 a month,” wrote APD Lt. Eve Stephens on Twitter July 5th. “We don’t have the officers we need.”

Joseph Chacon

The lower staffing levels have resulted in slower response times to 9-1-1 calls, according to Interim Chief Joseph Chacon. He said at a luncheon of the Headliner’s Club July 5th that the average response time to the most urgent category of call—which includes shootings, stabbings, rape, and domestic violence in progress—rose to 9 minutes and 2 seconds from its three-year average of 7.5 minutes.

Pro-law enforcement groups have seized on these trends as they assail the city council over its policy changes and budget cut last year. “Police morale is at an all-time low. We cannot recruit, retain, or pay overtime,” wrote the Save Austin Now PAC in a direct-mail letter June 22nd. The police budget cut last year was “unconscionable” and “disastrous,” the PAC contended. “Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council have once again made our city less safe and they refuse to admit it.”

Casaday of the Austin Police Association, who is also a board member of Save Austin Now, blamed the high rate of attrition in part on “the way (that officers) feel like they’re being treated by city management and the city council.”

Emboldened by a recent Proposition B ballot win May 1st—a petition ordinance to ban public camping—Save Austin Now immediately launched another petition drive to force a November proposition to require a minimum staffing level at the Austin Police Department of two officers per 1,000 residents.

Spearheading opposition to that effort is a coalition of 25 state and local organizations, including AFSCME Local 1624, Austin Area Urban League, Austin Justice Coalition, Indivisible Austin, the Travis County Democratic Party, and the Workers Defense Action Fund. They argue that the proposition would “force Austin to arbitrarily hire an estimated 500 more police officers, and more every year, without regard to the damage done to other critical programs in the budget,” including EMS, mental healthcare, victim services, and homeless services.

Corby Jastrow

Another pro-police advocacy group, the Greater Austin Crime Commission, is less strident than Save Austin Now in its criticism of the council and favors a different staffing model. But it too has voiced concerns that there aren’t enough officers on the beat and not enough cadet classes scheduled for next year. “The police department will still lose more officers at the current attrition rate than it gains with two cadet classes next year,” said President Corby Jastrow. “A third modified or regular cadet class is needed to fill expected vacancies.”

City Manager Spencer Cronk, in his budget proposal unveiled July 9th, listed two cadet classes in the coming fiscal year starting October 1st.

Fewer investigators

With fewer officers at their disposal, APD leadership have reassigned some specialists to patrol, in order to ensure that 9-1-1 calls continue to be answered in a timely way. The first reshuffle was announced last year by then-Chief Brian Manley. In a memorandum, Manley said that 95 officers would be reassigned, including from units focused on property crime and career criminals.

In June, another 33 officers from specialized units were “temporarily” reassigned to patrol, including four officers in the auto theft unit and the entire DWI unit, according to a memorandum from the new interim chief, which was leaked to the press.

A third reshuffle will take place soon. Chacon wrote, “On August 1, 2021, an additional 49 officers from specialized units will be temporarily returning to patrol. Also, the Investigative Units as a whole will hold a 10 percent vacancy rate (32 positions).” He noted that current detectives weren’t being reassigned, but officers who normally would be promoted into vacant detective roles were instead being sent to patrol.

‘Up to 10 days to review’

In another effort to cope with lower staff levels, APD has also sought to streamline crime reporting through the city website, which eliminates the need to collect a report by phone or in-person. The department rolled out a new online reporting tool in May, where citizens can file “non-emergency police reports,” including for theft and burglary.

In a news release about the tool, the Public Information Office said that it “provides an easily-accessible platform for people to create a police report without having to wait for a call back from a non-emergency operator to take the report, making the process more efficient.”

But each of the crime victims interviewed by the Bulldog made their report over the phone, either out of a sense of urgency or because they wanted to report evidence that couldn’t be submitted through the online portal.

When a report is submitted through the online portal, it might not necessarily be reviewed until more than a week later, according to the Public Information Office: “The review process may take up to 10 days. Once approved, the complainant will receive an APD case number.”

For Imani Williams, that process is “too long.” She wanted help sooner, she said.

A city spokesperson didn’t respond to inquiries about property crime enforcement. Nor did the APD Public Information Office answer questions about the best way for victims to report property crimes, or what happens after a report is filed. Spokespersons instead replied on two occasions that the were “slammed” and “really busy.”

‘Criminalization of poverty is counterproductive’

The lack of any response from city officials would seem to add to the sense that property crime isn’t a priority and that the city doesn’t have resources to deal with it. However, another aspect of the matter is outside the city’s control: prosecutions, which are handled by the county.

The police association president, Ken Casaday, told the Bulldog that he faults Travis County’s top prosecutors—District Attorney José Garza and County Attorney Delia Garza—for not pursuing cases that are brought to them. “Arrests are being made but DA Garza and CA Garza don’t want to prosecute property or drug crime,” he said.

The two Garzas are among a new breed of prosecutors nationally who won election in November on promises to end the “criminalization of poverty” by not prosecuting people for petty crimes that often are committed out of a place of desperation. They call for investing more in addressing root causes of poverty to combat crime, rather than investing in more policing.

Delia Garza

“The criminalization of poverty and mental illness is counterproductive to public safety and often disproportionately impacts low socio-economic communities,” said Travis County Attorney Delia Garza, whose office prosecutes misdemeanor crimes, in a March 10 community letter.

She continued, “Individuals experiencing homelessness are frequently arrested for minor crimes, like trespassing and shoplifting, that directly result from their housing and economic status.”

“Like most governmental entities, we have limited resources and have a fiduciary duty to taxpayers to use precious resources in the most efficient way possible. With that in mind, we will concentrate our resources on violent crime and threats to public safety.”

Garza also said that she had started a “Theft Diversion Program that allows individuals charged with misdemeanor theft to be offered the chance to clear their record after performing community service and paying back any restitution owed.”

Misdemeanor prosecutions plunge

David Escamilla

The upshot for Austin is fewer prosecutions of property crimes. Court statistics show that just 171 misdemeanor theft cases were filed in Travis County through June, compared to 354 in the first six months of 2020 and 538 in 2019 under the previous county attorney, David Escamilla.

That’s a decline of 68 percent from 2019 to 2021. The drop-off in convictions is even more extreme, 74 percent, with just 41 theft convictions this year compared to 157 in 2019, according to data reported by Travis County to the Office of Court Administration.

For comparison, the state as a whole also experienced a drop-off in misdemeanor theft filings and convictions, most likely because of the impact of Covid-19 on court proceedings, as well as lower levels of petty crime. But the change in Travis County is nearly double the statewide trend, suggesting that Garza’s policy changes are a dominant factor.

The County Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions about the theft diversion program or make available anyone for an interview.

In the rare instances when misdemeanor property crimes are still prosecuted, perpetrators are unlikely to end up in jail. That’s in line with a long-standing effort by the county not to jail non-violent offenders, but it also dovetails with pandemic-era efforts to keep the jail population low as a precaution against the spread of the virus.

As of July 15th, only three of the 1,551 people in Travis County jail were serving a misdemeanor sentence, or 1.9 percent, according to a weekly jail population report. Another 89 inmates, or 5.7 percent of the jail population, were in pre-trial detention for a misdemeanor crime. The bulk of the jail population in the county is being held pre-trial for a felony crime, or on a hold placed by state law enforcement or by other local jurisdictions. Inmates with a felony charge account for 91 percent of the jail population.

Burglars and auto thieves not being charged

Felony property crime prosecutions are also down sharply in Travis County, despite increases in auto theft and burglary. For example, the number of burglaries rose by 10 percent last year and another 1 percent so far this year, according to APD statistics. But there were only 97 burglary cases filed through June, down 54 percent from 2020 and down 64 percent compared to the most recent pre-pandemic year, 2019.

Likewise, court statistics show that there were 72 percent fewer charges for auto theft through June than in 2020, and 77 percent fewer than in 2019, in spite of a spike in auto theft.

Robbery prosecutions fell off less dramatically, by 27 percent compared to 2019, but the number of felony theft charges plummeted 88 percent.

José Garza

These figures suggest either that police aren’t making as many arrests, or that the new District Attorney, José Garza, is pursuing fewer cases than his predecessor Margaret Moore. While the pandemic probably accounts for part of the trend, it’s noteworthy that some Texas counties actually opened more felony cases for these same crimes, such as Harris County and Tarrant County, according to data from the Office of Court Administration.

José Garza has argued that shifting prosecution resources away from non-violent crimes will improve public safety by putting the focus on the most violent criminals. He said in a recent community letter that the focus of felony prosecutors should be on “murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and violent crimes against children,” without making mention of robbery or other property crimes.

“Diversion should be offered whenever possible. To prevent crime, we must work to address the underlying causes of crime. If diversion is not appropriate, then community supervision will be offered for as long as is needed to address the underlying cause of the crime unless it is inadequate to protect against the threat of violence to our community.”

Nexus with violent crime?

Not everyone is convinced of the wisdom of Garza’s approach. Some fear that laxer enforcement of property crime could fuel a rise in violent crime. So far through June this year Austin saw a 96 percent increase in murders, after a 42 percent increase in 2020. Felony assaults rose 15 percent in 2021, on top of a 22 percent rise last year.

Rightly or wrongly, critics are linking these trends to the police budget and to the new Garza agenda. “The Travis County district attorney has invited lawlessness, violence, and criminals into Travis County and has jeopardized public safety,” said the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) in a press release July 7th.

Charley Wilkinson

Charley Wilkison, CLEAT’s executive director, derided Garza as naive: “Taxpayers are unknowingly funding his whimsical journey of reimagining a Texas with criminals roaming the neighborhoods magically rehabilitating themselves and morphing from home invaders, armed robbers, drug offenders, and mass shooters.”

Reimagined public safety

On the other hand, tough-on-crime policies of the past have not always led to safer communities. Reformers argue that low-income and minority communities are harmed by unequal treatment in the criminal justice system and by the stigma of a criminal record, which becomes an obstacle to housing and employment, making recidivism into crime more likely.

The cure, in other words, is worse than the disease.

Critics say that this is particularly true of petty misdemeanors, such as shoplifting or vandalism. “The punishments associated with minor offenses are anything but minor,” wrote Harvard Law Professor Alexandra Natapoff in a 2016 academic paper. She framed the misdemeanor system as “a state institution with unique commitments to social control, race, and class stratification, and the expansion of the criminal process more generally.”

“The petty offense process is best understood as quasi-criminal or regulatory, an enormous, highly discretionary, and often informal apparatus of social marking and punishment, heavily inflected by class and race, that only partially adheres to the requirements of culpability and due process that traditionally constrain criminal law and distinguish it from other forms of state power.”

Chris Harris

But if that’s the case, what’s the alternative? How would a “reimagined” public safety system address property crime, if at all? I posed that question to Chris Harris, a member of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force and the director of criminal justice for Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization.

Harris replied, “A reimagined public safety system, in contrast to our current system, overtly prioritizes the lives and well-being of people over the protection of property. Despite this, by focusing on the elimination of deprivation in our community, a reimagined public safety system holds the promise of significantly reducing criminalized behaviors with their root in poverty—including unlawful acts related to property.”

“Furthermore, the current criminal legal system largely ignores and directly perpetrates unjust breaches of property in the form of wage theft and civil asset forfeiture, respectively. Collectively, the annual value of these forms of theft in the US are estimated to surpass the value of all property deemed stolen. This exemplifies how the current system doesn’t prioritize limiting harm or protecting the public, but serving those most connected to power and resources.”

Economic injustice

Whatever the ultimate solutions, tens of thousands of Austinites continue to be victimized by property crime each year. More precisely, there were 53,000 property crimes reported in Austin in 2020. And that number understates the actual victimization rate, because only about one in three property crimes is ever reported to law enforcement, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s annual Crime Victimization Survey for 2019.

Not only is the problem widespread, it also disproportionately affects working-class and lower-income households, according to multiple studies, notwithstanding the popular image of burglars preying on the wealthy.

That makes property crime not only a matter of public safety but also economic justice. Lower-income victims are less able to weather the blow from lost income or assets, and the loss of a vehicle, phone, or cash could make it difficult to commute to work, pay bills, or make rent, amplifying the impacts of a theft well beyond the value of the actual loss.

For example, when Imani Williams lost her cargo bike, she wasn’t able to continue making deliveries for UberEats, resulting in the loss of her livelihood. “Every day that I don’t find it I’m losing money, and it also just messes with my everyday life and convenience,” she told the Bulldog. “It’s really devastating. I’m beyond disappointed and sad.”

Likewise, Todd Davidson noted that his truck hadn’t been insured for theft, and the loss of his tools was problematic during a busy season. Fortunately, most of the tools were recovered, and a business insurance policy covered the loss of the rest, he said.

What should crime victims expect?

The crime victims who spoke to the Bulldog generally felt ignored by APD. “I just think the city’s in over its head,” said Dustin Durrance. “It’s almost like during the cold snap, you call 3-1-1 and it just doesn’t work. They’ve got so many things that are more important than this hit-and-run that they don’t even have time to have an assistant’s assistant respond.”

Victims’ comments also generally reflected expectations that traditional mores around policing should continue to apply in Austin, despite a major paradigm shift among local officials and a reordering of budget priorities.

“People are getting fed up with the lack of enforcement of crime,” Durrance said. “If people continuously have packages stolen off their porch, if they continuously have break-ins into their house and nothing gets done about any of it—that’s the kind of thing that gets people really riled up.”

“APD’s response to this so far has been abysmal,” said Williams, who tried desperately to find her bike without any help from the police. She added that she got a tipoff from some homeless neighbors about a “serious organized ring of people stealing bikes,” and she also saw “makeshift bike shops” out in the open in parts of the city. “You can see the bikes piled up by the underpass.” That was just a hunch, and Williams doesn’t actually know what happened to her bike. But it added to her sense of frustration.

“I’m not gonna sit here and blame Austin PD. At the same time I felt like the process of reporting the bike stolen just took too long. They could be more efficient. I talked to a police officer on the street who said there’s almost no chance of it being recovered. He had just written it off. So that’s frustrating.”

Perhaps one reason for optimism is that private surveillance cameras, tracking devices, and other security gadgets are becoming more common. While those technologies come with their own baggage (e.g., concerns around privacy, mass surveillance, and cybersecurity), theoretically they should make it easier to deter property crime and recover lost property.

Williams, for example, said that she had a GPS device on her bike, though she had forgotten to charge it at the time it was stolen. But let’s say, for sake of argument, that she had known exactly where the stolen bike was. Would anybody have come to help her retrieve it?

Trust indicators: Bulldog reporter Daniel Van Oudenaren is a journalist with 12 years experience in local, state, and international reporting.

Links to related documents:

Travis County Courts 2019 Felony Activity

Travis County Courts 2020 Felony Activity

Travis County Courts 2021 Felony Activity

Travis County Courts 2019 Misdemeanor Activity

Travis County Courts 2020 Misdemeanor Activity

Travis County Courts 2021 Misdemeanor Activity

Links to related Bulldog coverage:

Bills advance to penalize Austin over police funding, May 24, 2021

Legislation would hammer Austin over police funding, May 11, 2021

EMS investments paid off during deadly storm, March 3, 2021

What happened to reimagining Austin’s policing? February 26, 2021

Did Austin ‘defund’ the police? Here are the numbers, December 13, 2020

City bail resolution key to ending mass incarceration, April 13, 2020

Garza wins resolution approval for negotiations on bail reform, April 10, 2020


  1. If the idea of prosecuting theft and shop lifting is such a waste of time, everyone should look west . San Francisco is no longer having anyone stop shop lifting. People are walking out with armloads of clothing from stores. The security people are instructed not to stop anyone. It is too dangerous. Some long time stores and businesses are moving or simply closing. Small businesses cannot survive in that atmosphere.

    From what I gather from this article, two things are happening. We have the district attorney and country attorney who are teaching all of us a lesson. We who are losing property, or having property damaged, are expected to suck it up and keep our mouths shut. The fact is not everyone who has property stolen or damaged is white, wealthy nor able to overcome a loss. Except of course, the people who are losing property feel the losses.

    But, hey, aren’t those people who have things taken or damaged the ones who work and pay taxes? Oh well, too bad.

    I am sorry, but I believe that if there are no consequences for bad behavior, it is not going to stop. If people are not held accountable for their actions, how will they learn to live in society? I am not saying everyone should be in jail, but what about community service? What about providing training classes to provide job skills.

    Most importantly, how long do these people who know so much more than the the rest of us believe the public will continue to put up with all this mess?

Congratulations. It looks like you’re the type of person who reads to the end of articles. Now that you’re informed on this topic we want your feedback.

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