Posts Tagged ‘Austin Police Department’

Facebook for APD burglary unit

The page has been up for several days now, and it seems to be a live one, with more “likes” and more content each day.

Here’s one stated purpose:

The APD Burglary Unit is asking for the public’s assistance in locating the victims of a theft or burglary. The following images are of property recently recovered. Anyone having information as to the owner or claiming ownership can contact us by email and please include your case number when responding.

In addition, we’re told this:

Soon we plan to post images and videos of suspects asking for the public’s assistance in identifying them. We will also be posting images of recovered property so that we can locate the owners, and we’ll be sharing success stories. In the next week we will begin posting the APD Burglary Top Property Offenders as well. Stay tuned and spread the word.

Content so far consists mainly of recovered electronic items for which ownership is sought by the Austin Police Department burglary unit. At this moment, 665 “like” this site. Do you?

Local daily looks again: whirlybird department

Someone besides me (and the people who made all those printed copies disappear) has read the recent audit report that took an in-depth look at operations of the police department. As I did, reporter Tony Plohetsky paid particular attention to the fascinating section that recommends abolition of the APD aviation unit. When I wrote about this before, I noted that the daily’s report was brief.

Today’s analysis goes quite a way toward remedying the oversight. The on-line version lacks some of the accompanying sidebar material that enriches the print feature: “Police Department defends helicopter program as audit suggests cost-cutting measures: Some say Air 1 too costly to stay airborne” is the on-line title; the print version headings are different and include this language: “Helicopter unit is under scrutiny” and “Department, auditor disagree over cost-effectiveness.”

There’s a big opportunity cost involved. How many staffed patrol cars would be available on the ground for the amount invested in this aviation unit? Without the night-time disruption caused by noise 500 feet above and the lurid beam of the searchlight sweeping yards and rooms, how much better would we all sleep? My disposition would certainly improve. The reporter does not mention or analyze the factor of rising fuel costs. I wish that somebody would.

Public safety public information request

There will be a candidate forum on Thursday, May 1, from 6:30 to 8 pm at the city council chambers (301 West Second). Those running for seats on the city council have been invited. Major issues are disparities in patrols and other APD staff coverage. Based on City response to a public information (what we once knew as “open records”) request, a presentation (by public-spirited citizens Linda Yeatts and Lori Renteria) is available analyzing assignment of police officers and concluding that APD staffing is not adequate and is not distributed proportionately and fairly in accordance with such factors as population density, volume of calls to the dispatchers, or per-capita incidence of violent crime. Another conclusion that some have drawn is that police coverage (along with proposed alterations in public transportation coverage) is biased toward downtown business and tourism interests. Early voting has begun, but there’s still plenty of time to mull things over before the May 10 election. The League of Women Voters non-partisan guide is now available, but this forum on public safety is especially important for decision-making since we have a new police chief in town. If you want to know exactly what areas are covered by which of the area commands, good luck! The most recent on-line information about district or area commands does not appear to have been updated. If you find current information on the APD site, please do let the rest of know.

How much per page?

Heralded by a City press release and a brief story buried inside the second section of today’s local daily, the 580-page document entitled Public Safety Police Operations is replete with fascinating factoids and plenty of opinions about what the police department, emergency management services, and the police monitor should be doing differently. Those who are more comfortable with report lite will find an executive summary on pages i through xiii. This document is an effort outsourced from the office of the city auditor, to the tune of $315,000. The local daily item bears this anodyne heading “Audit of police suggests ways to cut costs: Officials working to put many suggestions in place.”

There’s much more to the report than that, and it should not vanish without more comment than what runs along the lines of “we’re already doing what’s important and we’re doing it well and anything we’re not doing is because it’s not important.” The report, a year in the making, contains, according to the city auditor’s site, 123 recommendations, including 107 for the police department, 8 for emergency services, 7 for the police monitor, and one for the city manager’s office. The auditor’s site continues, “APD concurred with 89 recommendations, PSEM with 7, OPM with 7 and the City Manager’s Office did not concur with its recommendation.”

Among the many discussions of matters I’ve wondered about myself is a lengthy consideration of the cost of special events that use the streets and parks, as well as a discussion of the assignment of law enforcement officers and how the cost is figured and assessed. This portion of the report begins at section 5.4.2 (page 230, ending at page 244), concerning the special events unit of the police department. Other topics of interest include matters related to homeland security, traffic enforcement, training, the area or district commands, organization generally, and much, much more.

My favorite recommendation, and the police chief disagrees entirely with it, is to discontinue “air enforcement,” otherwise known as the airplane, plus the helicopter that rattles windows, shines searchlights into houses, awakens the innocent from their sleep many nights a week, and serves no apparent useful purpose. If I read the table correctly, this little item is budgeted to cost us a mere $1,691,400 for fiscal year 2008-09. And let’s not forget that fuel costs are rising. This recommendation is discussed in detail on pages 579-81. “This recommendation would save the city about $1 million annually in operating and insurance costs. The re-deployment of staff would result in an annual savings (cost avoidance) of $691,400.”

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