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Interim APD Chief: Call 911 Only If Safety Or Property Is In Immediate Danger

 A uniformed Austin police officer in February 2020.
Gabriel C. Pérez
The Austin Police Department's leadership is asking people only to call 911 during emergencies in which someone's safety or property is in immediate danger.

Citing "recent staffing challenges" within the Austin Police Department, interim Chief Joseph Chacon is asking people to avoid calling 911 unless someone's safety or property is immediately threatened.

People are instead asked to report non-emergency incidents to 311 or for a follow-up by police.

"We're looking to see how we can deploy staff in the most appropriate manner and really to those calls that need them the most," Chacon said during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Chacon gave examples of non-emergency situations in which people should call 311 if the incident has already occurred and is no longer in progress:

  • Attempted theft of property
  • Burglary of residence, business or vehicle
  • Animal service
  • Crashes between vehicles that don't require a tow and in which there are no injuries, both drivers have proof of insurance and a drivers license, and neither is impaired
  • Verbal disturbance
  • Prostitution
  • Suspicious person or vehicle

When in doubt, Chacon said, call 911.

The interim chief, who could be made the permanent head of the department by a vote of the Austin City Council on Thursday, said he might continue encouraging people to call 311 in non-emergencies even if staffing issues are resolved.

"Right now, it's a necessary measure," Chacon said. "But I can tell you in the future, as we refill our officer ranks, does it make sense to continue to send a sworn officer to go and essentially just take a report when I have more pressing and urgent needs?"

"We may keep the model," he said.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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