We see figures concerning crime that come from a variety of sources. Those sources include the Austin PD, the Texas Department of Public Safety, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When you take the numbers related to property crimes from all the official sources available, there are some interesting, and perhaps startling, conclusions that can be drawn. They include the following:
- There are about 4,000 property crimes committed in Austin each month. Different agencies, and different political subdivisions, define their categories differently. The property crimes include theft (including motor vehicle theft), burglary and arson. They do not include robbery, which is classified as a property crime under the Texas Penal Code, but is considered to be a violent crime.
- The Austin Police Department solves less than one in ten property crime cases. The actual rate of 8% lags well behind the national average, but is an improvement over the 5% clearance rate in Austin just five years ago.
- When police collect evidence after a reported burglary, fingerprint data is sent for comparison. One police official is quoted as saying that it often takes about six months to get the information back, and sometimes it takes as much as two years.
Some of the problems leading to the low clearance rate on these crimes may be attributed to lab work and other factors. Other countries apparently do not have as large a gap between the commission of crimes and the solve rate. In England, for example, the clearance rate for property crimes is 23%, higher than our national average, and three times the rate in Austin.
We don’t have a crystal ball which allows us to determine what changes might improve the situation. On the other hand, the low rate of crimes solved is not a new phenomenon in Austin. It’s been around for years. And the call, as usual from the APD, is for more money and more people. Maybe that’s one way of trying to deal with the issue, but in these times of shrinking budgets and competing resources, we can’t help but note that marijuana arrests are at an all-time high. Could it be that some of the many billions allocated to the war on drugs, particularly marijuana, might be better spent elsewhere?