Feds announce operation to reduce violent crime in Austin

Protesters shut down southbound Interstate 35 freeway, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Austin, Texas, in response to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Federal officials have announced an effort to reduce violent crime in Austin, one of many U.S. cities that have seen an increase in murders and other violent crime during the pandemic.

U.S. Attorney Gregg Sofer announced Friday the creation of an operation that will focus on reducing crime through ballistics evidence, the targeting of repeat offenders, federal prosecution of the most violent and serious robbery cases and the targeting of violent crimes on military bases.

Austin’s crime rate has been the focus of state and federal officials in the wake of action taken by the City Council in August to reduce its police budget in the wake of nationwide protests over racial injustice.

In a tweet Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott supported Sofer’s announcement and said Texas would pass a law in the upcoming legislative session to defund cities that defund police.

Austin police have reported 45 murders this year, up from 29 during the same time last year.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters Friday the city is fortunate its homicide rate is much lower than other major cities, “but we also have to be equally as concerned with the increases we’ve seen this year.”

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