Crime

Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Mose Buchele, KUT News

The University of Texas Police Department sees a drop in crime rates over the summer as many students leave Austin. Now that students are back on campus, UTPD advises  students to be aware of their surroundings, have a game plan when going out at night and to report all suspicious activity.

That's according to UTPD Officer Layne Brewster, who regularly sends Campus Watch emails to the UT community recapping reports of crime at the university.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

An Austin police officer who fatally shot a man in East Austin last year will not face charges.

After reviewing the shooting, a Travis County grand jury declined to indict Officer Eric Copeland. Police say he shot Ahmede Bradley three times in the chest after a struggle over Copeland’s handgun. The shooting happened the same night as the killing of APD Officer Jaime Padron, in an unrelated incident.

Karen Bernstein for KUT News

In 1989, Fran Keller and her husband Dan wanted to find work with a purpose – something that could bring them closer to their community. They opened a day care in their rented house in Oak Hill, with a desire to take in pre-school age children and toddlers, even those who had a history of behavioral problems.

But Fran Keller says she never expected to find herself where she is now: serving her 23rd year in prison at the Crain Unit in Gatesville, Texas.

Brigitte Woosley

Today wraps up the first week of testimony in the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at the Fort Hood Army Post on Nov. 5, 2009.  

Brigitte Woosley, sketch artist

Today marks Day Two in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. The trial is expected to take months – only twelve of the nearly 300 witnesses testified Tuesday. More of the prosecution’s witnesses will testify today as prosecutors continue to build a case against Hasan. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

An Amber Alert issued late yesterday evening was a wake-up call to many iPhone users in Texas.

An alert was issued close to 10:45 last night for abducted children in San Angelo, Texas, 200 miles northwest of Austin. An Amber Alert was then sent to iPhone users in Austin – which was announced with a loud, jarring tone. 

Map Data @2013 Google

Update: Austin Police say a SWAT situation at the Tinseltown Theater has ended. No suspects were located.

Police are allowing employees of surrounding businesses to return to work.

Original Story (7:08 a.m.): Austin Police are asking people to avoid the Tinseltown Theater in far *North Austin. They’re investigating a report of two armed people in the theater.

Police say they got a call around 3:45 Monday morning from the theaters' cleaning crew. The three staff members say they saw two people dressed in all black enter the theater carrying long items – possibly weapons.

Rachel Adams-Heard

Campus safety is on students' minds after a student was kidnapped and sexually assaulted last week. The attack took place late at night in the 900 block of West 26th Street, in the heart of the West Campus.

SURE Walk is a student government volunteer program that offers a safe way for students to get home at night: students can call a phone number and request someone to walk with them.

Travis County officials say a 53-year-old woman died at the Travis County Correctional Complex located just east of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Laureen Butler from New Orleans was found unresponsive at around 3 a.m. Friday morning. Jail medical staff were called to the scene. The staff also called Austin/Travis County EMS and began administering lifesaving measures. EMS arrived on the scene a short time later but Butler was pronounced dead at 4:24 a.m.

aaronisnotcool at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cavalierhorn/4073578979/

Austin police are hosting a "community walk" Saturday through an area of the city infamous for its open-air drug market. APD has targeted the area of 12th and Chicon Streets since last year with a so-called Drug Market Intervention program modeled after an effort in High Point, North Carolina.  

The program allows non-violent drug dealers to have their criminal cases suspended if they agree to work with family members or community groups to receive drug treatment and job training. The program got up and running last year after local law enforcement saw it had been used across the country with impressive results, the Austin Chronicle reported in an extensive piece last July. 

facebook.com/TheSAFETool

In the two weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing, suspects have been identified and news outlets have interviewed people who knew them – asking if there was any sign that they might be capable of the attacks.

The same questions were asked after the Newtown Elementary School shooting.

Map Data @2013 Google

Update: Austin Police have identified the man killed by police last night as 54-year-old Herbert Babelay.

Original Story (April 24, 8:23 a.m.): Four Austin Police Officers involved in a fatal shooting last night are on paid administrative leave. The officers shot and killed a man who they say pointed a rifle at them.

It happened in southeast Austin – in the 700 block of Valdez. Police were called to that address at 8:40 p.m. on a report of a homicidal or suicidal man.

flickr.com/geolobo

This weekend, a man hijacked a Capital Metro bus – resulting in a police pursuit that lead to Bastrop before the hijacker killed himself.

Today, Capital Metro announced the man that took the bus was one of their own: Salvador Martinez, a bus operator employed by Cap Metro contractor McDonald Transit. Martinez’s tenure with Cap Metro dated back to 1998.

"A former justice of the peace has been charged with murder in the slayings of a North Texas district attorney and his assistant who prosecuted him for theft, officials announced Thursday," The Associated Press reports. Eric Williams is also charged with the murder of the district attorney's wife.

Liang Shi for KUT

More than 5 percent of the prison population in Texas is in solitary confinement, more than double the 2 percent national average. But one state senator says too little is known about the condition of these prisoners, especially those who may have been diagnosed with mental health or cognitive problems.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was considering the bill Wednesday afternoon.

"The wife of a former justice of the peace is being held on a capital murder charge in the killings of the Kaufman County District Attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor," The Dallas Morning News reports.

Two county prosecutors fatally shot in Texas. Colorado's top prison official gunned down. And a dozen more members of the U.S. justice community — ranging from police to judges — victims of targeted killings since the beginning of the decade.

What's going on?

"Security is high this morning for both elected officials and employees" in Kaufman County, Texas, after the shooting deaths of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthina, KERA reports.

Alfredo Estrella / AFP/Getty Images

The Texas Department of Public Safety calls Mexican cartels the most significant organized crime threat in the state. In its 2013 report, the agency said six cartels are operating in Texas by moving drugs, people, cash and weapons across the border.

"It is a top DPS priority to severely obstruct the range and power of Mexican drug organizations to affect the public safety of Texas citizens," said DPS Director Steven McCraw at the Texas Emergency Management Conference in San Antonio this week.

Nathan Bernier / KUT

Austin Police are giving more attention this weekend to the Rundberg Lane area of North Austin, conducting what they call a 100 percent enforcement initiative on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Officers will watch for all crimes, of course, including traffic offenses, but will give particular attention to drugs, prostitution and gang-related crimes. Austin Police Lt. Allen McClure says the goal is a reduction in crime in an area with a disproportionate amount of it.

Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

SAN ANGELO — Family members of Christine Morton and Debra Baker filled a Tom Green County courtroom with tearful hugs and relieved smiles on Wednesday after a jury found Mark Alan Norwood guilty of murder.

Norwood, 58, received an automatic life sentence after the jury decided he was guilty of the Aug. 13, 1986 killing of Christine Morton, who was beaten to death in her North Austin home. 

The 16-year-old girl raped by two Ohio high school football players in a crime that has attracted wide attention has also been the victim of online harassment, the state's top prosecutor said late Monday.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will convene a grand jury next month to investigate whether other charges should be filed in the infamous case of a 16-year-old girl who was raped by two high school football players last summer.

Spencer Selvidge

Mark Norwood, charged with the 1986 murder of Christine Morton — a crime that her husband, Michael Morton, was wrongfully convicted of — will go on trial Monday in San Angelo.

Michael Morton had spent nearly a quarter-century behind bars before DNA testing exonerated him in 2011 and connected Norwood, a 58-year-old former Bastrop dishwasher, to the beating death.

flickr.com/joegratz and rosenthalwatson.com

Update: Austin attorney Marc G. Rosenthal was convicted by a federal jury late last week. 

A statement from the Southern District of the U.S. Attorney's Office reads in part

After a four-week trial, jurors convicted Rosenthal of conspiring to bribe a state district judge, bribe witnesses in both state and federal court cases, file fraudulent personal injury cases in both state and federal courts, and deprive the citizens of Cameron County, Texas, of the right to honest services of an elected official.

Rosenthal's sentencing is scheduled in June. 

Original Post (1:49 p.m.): The ongoing saga of Marc G. Rosenthal continues winding its way down the rabbit hole. The Austin attorney, and former Mr. Texas bodybuilding champion, is currently on trial in Corpus Christi, accused of leading a conspiracy that turned trials in his favor.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The State of Texas executed 48 year-old Carl Blue Thursday night. He was put to death for killing his former girlfriend in 1994.

Blue was convicted of setting 38 year-old Carmen Richards-Sanders on fire at her Bryan apartment.

According to information on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's death row website, Blue threw gasoline on Richards-Sanders when she opened the door to her apartment. He then ignited her clothes with a lighter. Blue also threw gasoline on a man in the apartment—who caught on fire when he tried to help Richards-Sanders.

Erika Aguilar, KUT News

The Austin Police Department is taking steps to improve the Rundberg area as part of the Restore Rundberg Project. APD is conducting a Vehicle Abatement initiative: tagging and towing vehicles that are in violation of city ordinances and state laws.

It might seem trivial for police to address crime with efforts that target illegally parked cars, but University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor of Sociology and Consultant to the Restore Rundberg Project David Kirk says that it addresses a bigger sociological issue known as the Broken Window theory.

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