As the latest step in a political fight against Austin over police funding, Governor Greg Abbott says he is considering a proposal to make the state in the center of the city a large area, including downtown, the Texas Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin.
Abbott raised the idea on Wednesday during a campaign full-time town hall while discussing police efforts to punish “rescue cities” during the upcoming legislative session beginning in January. For months, he has been protesting the Austin city council’s August vote to cut police budgets by a third, primarily by shifting certain responsibilities to law enforcement. It has also proposed measures such as a freeze on property tax revenues for cities that cut police budgets.
“Something else I want to think about, and that’s because there are people from all over the world and from all over the country to our capital and to the university, we can’t make our Texas peers victims of crime … because of Austin’s leadership,” Abbott said, “and so I think we need to make sure there is a Capitol Zone area that the state will be responsible for policing, and we can use Austin city police officers to do that. “
The proposal follows the fight for law enforcement, which became the focus of the November elections at the national level and plays a role in the fear of rising crime in major cities amid calls for racial justice and police reform.
According to city statistics, violent crimes and property crimes in Austin declined slightly by October of this year compared to last year. However, homicides have risen to their highest level in two decades: 44 in a city of about 1 million inhabitants. But this rise began before the city council vote in August and reflects the state and national trend for big cities.
Police officials argued that the increase in homicides was unrelated to the funding decision and could constitute a statistical anomaly. Austin’s homicide rate remains low among major cities in Texas and across the country.
“I don’t think we could say the 2020 numbers reflect that issue,” Australian Police Lieutenant Jeff Greenwalt told reporters last month. “The murders we investigate usually stem from the common theme of putting someone in a situation where they weren’t as safe as they could be.”
The council’s vote came after the department had been criticized for months for its own death case. use of force, and this coincided with the national outrage following the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died after kneeling on the neck of a white policeman. Austin officers, meanwhile, severely wounded several nonviolent protesters in protests following Floyd’s death.
Abbott argued that cutting police budgets at a time of rising killings “absurd. “ In the call, he vowed that he and lawmakers would “pass laws that would destroy cities that destroy police, but also fiscally … make it impossible to“ do that, ”and force the city of Austin to reverse its strategy. . “
Abbott said the zone could range from Lady Bird Lake, which borders South downtown, to 32nd Street, Interstate 35 to Lamar Boulevard, or Texas State Highway Loop 1, known as MoPac. The zone includes the entire downtown area, where crime has dropped significantly this year as fewer workers fill offices due to the coronavirus epidemic, as well as the area surrounding the governor’s mansion.
“We can ensure that this area is particularly safe for anyone who walks downtown, walks around the Capitol, walks around the university,” Abbott said.
Abbott had previously suggested that the state could take over parts of Austin’s law enforcement, but didn’t go into as much detail.
Jolie McCullough contributed to the reports.