The Austin Police Department (APD) is so short-staffed that it has now instructed residents to call 3-1-1 for certain crimes that are no longer in progress or if there’s no immediate threat to life or property, according to police.
The department announced Wednesday that beginning Friday, residents should report a non-emergency situation to either 3-1-1 or iReportAustin.com.
Among the “incidents” residents can report to the new hotlines include auto theft, burglary of a home, business or vehicle, crashes in which there are no injuries and no need for a tow, COVID-19 violations and theft, among several other incidents.
“Safety is our department’s number one priority,” Interim Chief of Police Joseph Chacon said in a statement. “APD will still respond to emergency situations and thoroughly investigate crimes reported to the Department.”
The department said the new changes will help with staffing shortages so that officers may focus on 9-1-1 emergencies.
“These response changes will ensure that we will bring all of our resources to bear, including officers and technical experts, to respond to all situations as appropriate,” Chacon added. “We recognize the staffing challenges our department faces, and we are trying to be innovative in how we respond.”
In certain instances, a civilian officer like a crime technician could respond to non-emergency scenes to gather evidence, Chacon said, according to KXAN.
“So our property crime technicians are actually in our forensics division and do receive specific training on the collection of evidence including forensic evidence such as DNA evidence or fingerprints and the proper submission of that,” the police chief explained.
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The Austin City Council voted to defund their police department by $150 million in 2020. In August it was reported that the city had seen a 96% increase in homicides and a 100% rise in traffic accidents, according to local law enforcement leaders. (RELATED: ‘Enter At Your Own Risk’: Texas Police Group Warns Drivers That Austin Defunded Police)