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Notley/Monitor Poll: Austinites stand divided on police spending, public safety

Thursday, July 14, 2022 by Emma Freer

More than two years after a series of mass protests triggered budget cuts for the Austin Police Department, and nearly a year after voters rejected a proposition to expand the department’s ranks, Austinites remain split in their perceptions of law enforcement. 

Seventeen percent believe the city is spending the right amount on policing, compared to 25 percent who feel the city spends too much, 38 percent who feel it spends too little and 20 percent who aren’t sure, according to a June survey of 507 likely voters commissioned by Notley and conducted by national pollster Change Research for the Austin Monitor.

Younger respondents were more likely to believe the city spends too much, while older respondents were more likely to believe the opposite, according to a Change Research analysis of the survey results.

During the 2020-21 budget process, City Council cut $31.5 million from APD’s budget, citing the protests and “community outcry against the disproportionate impact of police violence on Black Americans, Latinx Americans and other non-white ethnic communities,” according to the approved budget

The following year, however, Council members approved a record-high APD budget – more than $443 million. 

Austinites are also divided over whether they feel safe in their city. Overall, half of survey respondents said they do. 

The results are politically split, according to the Change Research analysis. Among respondents who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, 58 percent feel safe in Austin, whereas only 24 percent of those who voted for Donald Trump do.

Overall, crime is down in Austin in 2022. Crimes against persons, including murder, rape and aggravated assault, decreased 4 percent when comparing January through May 2022 with the same time period in 2021, according to the latest available chief’s monthly report

Homicide is also down 25 percent, after an alarming spike in 2020 and 2021 that mirrored similar trends in cities across the country, including those where local governments did not cut police budgets, as reported by USA Today.

Similarly, crimes against property, including robbery, arson and auto theft, decreased 9 percent when comparing January through May 2022 with the same time period in 2021, according to the same report. Crimes against society, including drug violations, purchasing prostitution and weapons law violations, have increased 24 percent. 

Meanwhile, APD’s citywide response time was slower than its target of 8:24 minutes by more than two minutes between January and March, according to a May 2 presentation by APD to the city’s Public Safety Commission. The department has said ongoing staffing shortages have contributed to the delays. 

Overall, nearly half of survey respondents say they feel the same about APD as they did last year. More than a third feel worse, and 10 percent feel better. 

In a poll commissioned by Notley for the Austin Monitor, Change Research surveyed 507 likely voters in Austin, Texas, from June 24-29, 2022. The modeled margin of error for the survey is 4.7 percent, which uses effective sample sizes that adjust for the design effect of weighting. Complete survey results and methodology can be found here.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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