Bertha Rendon Delgado is president of the East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association, representing her historic minority neighborhood in Austin, Texas. Delgado worried when the Austin City Council voted last summer to cut a significant portion of the police budget. Since then, the average police response time for serious 911 calls has risen to nine minutes, and canceled cadet classes and attrition have left fewer patrol officers on the streets.
Delgadotold the Austin American-Statesman that her neighbors are discussing getting weapons and installing cameras. “We’re suffering out here,” she said. “We don’t have the police here doing what they need to do to keep us safe.”
Austin is one of several major cities that reduced police funding in 2020 in response to protests over police brutality, especially against minorities. Activists demanded cities defund the police and reinvest the money into programs that support minority communities. But this year, facing spikes in violent crime and police resignations and retirements, many cities have reversed course, restoring and even exceeding former funding levels for law enforcement. While the boost to funding is meant to get more officers in the field, reversing the rise in crime may be a complicated endeavor at a time when police and community relations remain strained.
In 2020, Austin’s City Council seemed determined to make a statement. Council members announced they were cutting $150 million from the $434 million police budget. They did so by separating programs such as the forensics lab from the department, canceling upcoming cadet classes, and moving some funds to community programs.
Homicides in the city increased substantially: In September, Austin logged its 60th homicide this year, setting anew record. The trend in Austin is reflected nationwide, with violent crime increasing across major U.S. cities. On Sept. 27, the FBI released data showing murders in the United States increased by nearly 30 percent in 2020 compared with the previous year, the largest single-year jump ever.
Read more at World Magazine