Public safety indicators, such as crime rates, have important social and economic implications for the development of communities and regions. They can impact perceptions of resident safety and community involvement, and consequently demographic dynamics of a region. Crime and the fear of crime impose costs on residents and the sustainability of a region. Conversely, public safety has a positive value to residents and sustainability efforts. Indicators of public safety provide benchmarks against which to measure performance of city agencies, non-profits, and philanthropic efforts to reduce crime and enhance feelings of safety within neighborhoods. Reducing the disparities found across geography, by income levels, and across race/ethnicity categories is key for a sustainable Austin area. Key indicators for public safety include: community safety, safe families, and equity in law enforcement. A few highlights from this section include:
- The Uniform Crime Rate (including both violent and non-violent crimes) in the Austin area has decreased since 2000. Travis County, although the highest of the six-county region, is at an all-time low of 4,500 crimes per 100,000 residents. Williamson County has the lowest rate at 1,508 crimes per 100,000 residents.
- According to the A2SI Community Survey, perceptions of violent crime are mixed: 34% of respondents perceive violent crimes are increasing and 35% perceive that violent crimes are decreasing.
- Bastrop County has the highest increase of family violence incidents per 1,000 residents from 2004 to 2014 with a 42% rate increase followed by Burnet County (24%) and Hays County (7%). In the same period, Williamson County had the greatest rate reduction (-22%), followed by Travis County (-11%), and Caldwell County (-4%).
- After peaking in 2008 with 70.8 arrests per 1,000 adults, the rate of African American arrests has dropped and in 2014 hit an all-time low of 44.9 arrests per 1,000 adults in the Austin area. However, Black adults remain two times more likely to be arrested than an adult of White or Hispanic origin.
- Sixty-two percent of all hate crimes that occurred between 2004 and 2014 were motivated by racial prejudice, of which 55% were targeted towards someone of Black or African-American descent. Approximately one-fifth (21%) of all hate crimes targeted people of the LBGTQ community. Fifteen percent were anti-religion in nature, of which 17 out of the 32 reported incidents (53%) were targeted towards people of the Jewish faith, followed by people of multiple religions (25%), Muslims (13%), and Catholics (9%). The majority of hate crimes were committed by individuals of White racial background.
In 2015, approximately 85% of all residents had “some” or “a great deal” of confidence in local law enforcement. This is consistent with the 2010 survey. However, 32% of African Americans had “little” or “no” confidence in local law enforcement.
Thinking about the public safety section, some questions to consider:
- What drives your perception of crime?
- How are crime rates related to other indicators (for example population growth)?