Even With “Record-Breaking” Murder Numbers, Austin Is One of America’s Safest Cities. Huh!

It's a standard talking point when City Hall is being assailed from both the left and right for how it handles public safety: Austin is one of the safest big cities in America. Here's the benchmark for that, with fresh data for 2020 (except for Philadelphia – that's 2019 data) that the FBI, which collects Uniform Crime Reporting stats from law enforcement agencies across the country, just released this week.

Austin's violent crime rate (homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and armed robbery) stands at 485.6 incidents per 100,000 residents, which places it 27th among the nation's 30 largest cities. (Our "record-breaking" murder spike in 2021 would raise that rate to about 488 incidents per 100,000, still 27th place.) That's higher than it was in 2019, as has been true all over the country amid the dislocation of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crash, which reversed dramatic declines in crime over the preceding decade. Relative to other cities, though, Austin's moves toward de-policing and its much-discussed "crisis" in police staffing – the subject of Proposition A on the Nov. 2 ballot – have not worsened public safety; cities that increased their police budgets and staffing and talked Tuff-on-Krime in response to the turmoil of the last two years still have more crime than we do.

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