Hundreds of sex offenders in Austin, Texas, are being left unsupervised by sworn law enforcement officers due to the city’s agenda to defund the police and reduce academy classes.
Police officers whose job it was to check on registered sex offenders in the city have had to shift over to patrol duty after the Austin City Council cut the police budget in August 2020 along with three cadet classes at the police academy.
As a result of the constrained budget and resulting officer shortage, the Austin Police Department had to dissolve their Sex Offender Apprehension and Registration Unit (SOARU), where officers were assigned to monitor nearly 650 registered sex offenders weekly and make sure they were where they reported themselves to be – away from schools or places where children congregate.
The city of Austin has around 1,600 sex offenders – many of whose cases are now assigned to the supervision of part-time civilian employees. However, civilian employees cannot make arrests, and some officials question whether they can handle the case load.
A spokesperson from the Austin Police Department confirmed to Fox News that three full-time SOARU officers were reassigned to patrol duty.
“The lack of cadet classes at APD over the last couple of years has contributed to an officer staffing shortage,” APD told Fox News. “In order to prioritize the Department’s ability to respond to 911 phone calls and keep the community safe, APD has had to reallocate some personnel from our support units back to patrol,” the spokesperson said.
“The Sex Offender Apprehension and Registration Unit (SOAR) is one of the units affected by these staffing challenges and lost 3 officers who were reassigned to patrol in the process. These officers’ duties and tasks while assigned to SOAR were to perform sex offender compliance checks and to track down and arrest those with outstanding warrants. With the absence of these officers in the SOAR unit to assist with these tasks, the unit has limited capacity to perform these functions. There are currently 1 sergeant, 3 detectives, 1 full-time civilian, and 2 part-time civilians who now work in this unit.”
Austin City Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly told Fox News that civilian employees have limited capabilities compared to police officers, and oftentimes do not command the same respect from those they monitor.
“I spoke recently with two women who are contractors that oversee putting ankle monitors on violent offenders. It surprised me to learn that these violent offenders often remove the monitors and dump them in trash bins. There are no officers going out to check on the whereabouts of these violent offenders and it appalls me. At a very minimum, the city is responsible for public safety and we are doing an injustice to victims of violent crimes by not staffing this unit, Mackenzie explained.
Austin police officer Justin Berry, a 13-year-old veteran, believes the staffing shortage has led to one high-profile incident of a sex offender with an active warrant out for his arrest allegedly raping an autistic teenager.
The man was wanted for failing to register with the authorities, and according to Berry, would have been apprehended SOAR unit members had the unit remained active.
“They took those officers back and those officers were tasked with field visits, sex offender compliance checks, things that could have prevented things like this from happening,” Berry explained.