By Eileen Griffin
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has directed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to get crime under control in Austin.
After the Austin city council voted to reduce funding for the police department, the city has been overwhelmed with crime, The Center Square reports.
Staffing levels have dropped, and retention of seasoned police officers has become difficult. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, supported the increased law enforcement presence in light of the low staffing levels within the city’s police department.
With violent crime increasing, the damage done from the defund the police policies have continue to cripple the department’s ability to provide safety in a community with increasing lawlessness.
“The governor’s directive comes after he last month created a street takeover task force, calling up Texas DPS to assist APD to respond to gangs and alleged criminals taking over intersections, wreaking havoc and endangering the public in major cities like Austin,” Bethany Blankley writes.
The March 27 statement from Abbott’s office said the goal of the directive was to, “provide assistance to the City of Austin Police Department (APD) to help reduce crime and improve safety in the state’s capital.”
“In Texas, public safety remains our top priority, and we will do whatever it takes to support the brave men and women in law enforcement who protect our communities,” the statement reads.
In February, Abbott initiated a street crime unit to stop street takeovers, the Austin-American Statesman reports. Street takeovers occur when individuals block streets and intersections. The newly formed unit will investigate the organized crime aspect of these activities.
Street takeovers have occurred in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. A recent street takeover in Austin included fireworks launched at police vehicles, shattered windows, and an injured officer. The hostile crowd numbered in the hundreds.
Another recent takeover resulted in the violent crowd throwing rocks and bottles at police. Policed vehicles were damaged.
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon held a press conference responding to a night of four street takeovers in February. Chacon described the activity as dangerous with hundreds of people, many cars, and the risk to the public when the crowds block intersections. Police responding required multiple units before attempting to interfere.
“When enough units had arrived, and officers attempted to disperse the crowd, they were met with open hostility and aggression,” Chacon said.
“I’ll end my comment by simply putting up support for our men and women who faced incredible danger that night with very large crowds that were intent on harming them,” Chacon said. “Yet they stood the course and did what needed to be done to ensure public safety and to disrupt the activities.”
Abbott’s street takeover task force is expected to support Austin, as well as other cities experiencing the lawless takeover of public roadways.
“Despite the foolish attempts by some local officials to defund and demoralize our brave law enforcement officers, Texas is and remains a law-and-order state,” Abbott said in a statement.
“We must send a clear message that these reckless, coordinated criminal events will not be tolerated in Texas. This statewide task force will work closely with local officials and law enforcement to investigate, prosecute, and prevent these dangerous street takeovers. Working together, we can ensure Texans in communities large and small remain safe,” Abbott said.