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Austin police report shows a slight uptick in property crimes in 2018

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 by Andrew Weber, KUT

A new report released Monday from the Austin Police Department shows crime overall increased in 2018, with property crimes up 9 percent. Violent crimes dropped slightly, however.

The report also acknowledges controversy surrounding the way APD handles sexual assault cases, after a state audit found the department incorrectly cleared 30 rape cases in 2017.

Overall, the department’s preliminary report to the FBI on 2018 crime statistics found Austin’s crime rate increased by 7 percent in 2018.

The city’s violent crime rate in 2018 was 382 per 100,000 residents, an 8 percent decrease over 2017. Of those crimes, police note slight increases in the number of murders and robberies, while there were fewer sexual assaults and aggravated assaults. There were 32 murders in 2018, compared to 25 in 2017.

Police say officers solved 40 percent of all reported violent crimes – a rate above the national average, but below APD’s rate of 46 percent last year.

The department said this year’s numbers aren’t comparable to previous years, as increased scrutiny and the state’s sexual assault case audit have changed how the department records those cases. Before that audit, national reporting highlighted that APD had “exceptionally cleared” dozens of sexual assault cases – meaning that a case couldn’t be solved for reasons outside a police investigation.

A state audit found APD didn’t meet federal guidelines to exceptionally clear a third of the sexual assault cases it cleared in 2017.

The report says APD retrained its detectives on how to properly code those cases to adhere to FBI guidelines and reviewed all the crimes included in the report, known as Part I crimes.

“First, APD retrained all detective units regarding the proper use of UCR classifications. After receiving this training, detective units reviewed all Part I crimes for 2018 that were cleared exceptionally to ensure the cases were classified correctly,” the report says. “Finally, APD assembled an independent team to conduct an additional, internal review of cases cleared exceptionally.”

Austin’s property crime rate increased last year – a rate of 3,458 per 100,000 residents, the report said, while the number of property crimes solved dropped slightly.

Of those property crimes, auto thefts and burglary of vehicles increased in 2018. Thefts from cars accounted for nearly 40 percent of all thefts, and the number of cars stolen increased from nearly 2,100 in 2017 to just over 2,500 in 2018, though detectives solved nearly 80 percent of those cases.

The most common car models stolen were the Ford F-150, Toyota Camry, Chevy Silverado, and Honda motorcycles.

Police say 1,021 robberies were reported in 2018, up from 987 in 2017.

The department submits a yearly analysis to the FBI, which releases its own report in the fall.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT.

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