AUSTIN, Texas — Interim Police Chief Joe Chacon is following through with his promise to create an initiative to address recent increases in gun violence in Austin.
On Friday, the Austin Police Department announced a new "Violence Intervention Program" aimed at preventing gun crime through collaborative efforts with local, state and federal agencies.
On a local level, effective immediately through Aug. 31, APD is working with prosecutorial liaisons at the district and county attorney's offices to "increase the visibility, thoroughness and prosecution of violent offenses."
"We are intentionally focusing our combined efforts on cases that are violent in nature, and this plan will work well to fight back against criminals who would do harm to Austin residents," Chacon said.
APD will review cases and refer any suitable for the program to the appropriate partner agencies for prosecution and investigation. Crime analysis will also be conducted to continually track violent gun crime trends and apply that data to inform overall efforts.
"From day one, our office has been clear that we take violent crimes very seriously," Travis County District Attorney José Garza said. "We look forward to working with the Austin Police Department and other partners to focus our resources on crimes of violence that make our community less safe."
APD will also be working with federal partners, such as the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Task Force, to investigate people "actively engaged in ongoing violent crime in the city involving a firearm and to increase the number of federal referrals for offenses." APD will also utilize the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) system to further gun crime investigations with the overall aim to increase seizures of illegally possessed firearms.
"APD's partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Travis County District and County Attorney's Offices will ensure that prosecutions of crimes of violence receive the attention and resources they need," APD said.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler released the following statement on Friday:
“I support the violent crimes initiative of Chief Chacon and the District and County Attorneys. I must also admit I am tired, like many others, of hearing news of another violent shooting happening in communities like Austin, and across the country. We cannot let ourselves become numb due to the frequency at which they occur. We must intensify our push of lawmakers to implement common-sense gun reforms.
“Fourteen years ago, on this day, a gunman, who had access to a gun and struggled with mental health, took siege on the classrooms at Virginia Tech University, killing 33 students and faculty members.
“As we reflect on what happened 14 years ago, we are also plagued with events in Indianapolis tragically claiming nine lives at a FedEx facility. And the events unfolding right now in San Antonio. When is enough, enough?
“As the investigations into the mass shootings in Indianapolis and San Antonio unfold, one fact remains, greater access to firearms has not equated to safer communities.”
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