AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin continues to see an upward trend in gun violence and homicides.
NeNe Walter, who lives in the complex, says she heard the gun shots, then watched as her safe haven became a crime scene.
“I kind of moved over here thinking it was a safe place,” Walter said. “It makes me feel kind of like I have to watch my surroundings all the time.”
Tuesday’s shooting marks the fifth homicide in Austin in just the past two weeks. There have been 21 total homicides so far this year. They’ve been spread across town.
For perspective by April 6, 2020, there had been 14 homicides citywide, and by April 6, 2019, just seven. Austin didn’t reach 21 homicides until the summer in both of those years.
This year, all but three of the homicide deaths have been from gun violence.
APD data from 2015 to 2020 shows violent crimes using firearms more than doubled in the past five years.
On Tuesday, neighbors who live near Chicano Park in East Austin gathered to put a call out to stop the violence. Their gathering followed a shooting and stabbing at the park Sunday, as families were gathered there to celebrate Easter.
“Please stop the violence. Don’t do it here in our park,” cried one neighbor, Laura Estrada.
The East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association is asking the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for better lighting in the park and APD for more patrols in the area, especially on weekends when large groups are gathered there.
“We need community policing,” said the association’s president, Bertha Rendon Delgado. “We need APD to be with the community. This is where the conversation starts.”
In an interview with KXAN Tuesday afternoon, Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon told KXAN that he doesn’t have a definitive answer as to why homicides and violent gun crimes are increasing so much in Austin. However, he says population growth and more guns being in the community are both likely contributors.
Chacon says his department has seen a high number of crimes that involve stolen guns, recently.
To get to the bottom of why violent crimes are happening more frequently, Chacon has launched an iniative to study what’s going on in the city and then come up with specific ways to combat it. He’s recently pulled detectives from multiple specialized units to begin analyzing every case involving a gun that APD handles, as well as stolen weapons cases.
APD employees are working on the initiative daily, and once they begin seeing trends in their data, Chacon says they’ll be able to come up with better ways to police preventatively.