AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, APD Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon held a press conference to update the public on the Violence Intervention Program (VIP).
The program, which launched in April, is aimed at preventing gun crime in Austin.
During the press conference, Chacon said the program is highly focused on identifying the most prolific and consistent violent crime offenders. According to Chacon, gun crimes are the main cause of rising crime rates in Austin, specifically in homicides and aggravated assaults non-related to domestic violence. Chacon also said he is concerned with the rising number of robberies committed using guns.
"It is incredibly important to take an active role to get illegally owned firearms off the street and hold those doing harm accountable," said Chacon.
The program will continue until at least Aug. 31. At that time, APD will reevaluate continuing the program or adding any new modifications.
According to APD'S most recent numbers related to the VIP, officers have arrested 57 individuals. These individuals collectively account for 158 individual violent or gun crimes in the Austin area. The VIP has also seized 108 illegally owned guns.
"It is through the consistent effort of our officers that we are able to locate, arrest and charge these offenders," said Chacon. "We are working with our state and federal prosecutors to ensure that appropriate prosecutorial efforts are brought to bear and that the results of those prosecutions are highly visible."
Chacon also said the VIP will be expanding its units into Austin's Downtown command area and into the entertainment district. He said this is in response to the Sixth Street mass shooting and more violent gun crimes in this particular area.
This expansion will add more officers on streets and at the real-time crime center that monitors public safety. Chacon said he is focused on this area because APD officers have seized 55 illegal guns from this region since January.
"Our message at this point is simple. If you are coming downtown during entertainment hours, don't bring a gun," said Chacon. "More guns downtown do not equate to greater safety. In an area where we have intoxicated people and fights that break out on a regular basis, it can only be a recipe for disaster."
According to Chacon, APD will also be partnering with the Office of Violence Prevention, housed under Austin Public Health to provide data, to identify the root causes of violent behavior, and to mitigate and prevent trauma in the community.
If you have information on individuals or groups of individuals who are in possession of illegal firearms, are committing acts of violence, or other crimes involving guns, APD is asking that you call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS), or use the Crime Stoppers app.
According to APD, you may earn a reward of up to $1,000, and all tips are anonymous.
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