Police Lt. offers firsthand look at front-line work in hard-hit Austin

Police Lt. offers firsthand look at front-line work in hard-hit Austin

Police Lt. offers firsthand look at front-line work in hard-hit Austin

Homicide records are increasing exponentially across the nation, and a Texas city finds itself in the crosshairs of an unprecedented rise in the number of deadly incidents.

The capital city of Texas was one of several cities to reach new records last year only to be surpassed in 2021.

American Family News spoke to Lt. Brett Bailey, an Austin Police Department supervisor with four sergeants and 28 detectives under his direction. Reluctantly calling himself a supervisor, he prefers to say he works with the aggravated assault unit and the homicide unit of the department.

Bailey considers “death investigation” to be a calling, admitting that “it’s not for everyone.”

Unfortunately, homicide rates across the nation are clearly reaching record numbers, he laments. In Austin, Texas, the number of homicides markedly increased in 2020.

For the past 10 or 15 years, Bailey says, Austin has averaged about 30 homicides per year. In 2020, there were 48. And in 2021, the number could exceed 88. “The number [of homicides in 2021] far surpasses the record number of homicides Austin has ever seen since [record-keeping began in] 1960.” In 1984, there were 59 homicides.

“It’s been a busy year [in Austin],” he admits. “While it’s too early to have any analytical data to back up a reason for the increase,” Bailey says, “[his] personal experience [points him to] a number of factors.”

One, he suggests, is an increase in population. Austin's population has grown by 21% over the last decade. With the increase in people comes an increase in criminal activity. To that end, he says, “a lot more people are carrying firearms today than were two or three years ago—and this is the largest contributing factor [to the rise in homicides].”

In the past, he says, most disagreements or physical altercations would result in an assault. “But, sadly, people today are pulling out guns and shooting at each other [to resolve their disputes],” according to the homicide detective.

On top of that, Bailey admits that there are areas in the police department that have suffered because of defunding. In the largest cut in any major city in America, Austin’s city council cut about one-third of its police budget amid nationwide protests and subsequent push for police “reform” last year.

“But homicide is such an emotional, spur-of-the-moment crime that [he doesn’t] think budget cuts have influenced the numbers that much,” the police official contends. Until adequate analytical data can help explain the rise in homicides, Bailey says he prefers to focus on seeking justice and bringing each homicide case to a close for a victim’s family.

“[Austin’s] detectives have done such an amazing job,” Bailey tells AFN, “staying motivated, and they are incredibly dedicated solving each case.”

The Texas capital city has traditionally experienced a much higher solvability rate than the national average, he notes. While the national average typically falls between 50% and 60%, he says, Austin has always cleared more than 90% of the city’s homicides. And this year is not expected to be any different, he adds.  

The drastic increase in the number of homicides has left some detectives feeling “worn down,” he admits. “But morale is good and everyone remains extremely dedicated to their job.”

Bailey is “very proud” to be part of a team that includes detectives, an intelligence unit, a task force, other nonsworn staff, crisis counselors, crime analysts, administrative specialists, and many others.

“Everybody has been affected by this increase,” he concludes, “and I’m so proud of the work they continue to do.”