Burglaries, thefts in steady decline in Austin since 2007


Burglaries and thefts in the Austin area have been steadily declining since 2007, according to Austin Police Department’s Annual Crime and
Traffic Reports.

In 2007, APD reported 8,031 burglaries and 34,461 thefts. Nine years later, burglaries have decreased by 34.9 percent and thefts by 22.2 percent, with 5,255 burglaries and 26,182 thefts reported in 2016, according to the year-to-date data in the Chief’s December Monthly Report. Thefts are consistently the highest reported crime, according to both reports.

Sgt. James Kettleman, who supervises APD’s burglary unit, attributed these declines to changes in APD’s operations in recent years, specifically in the burglary unit. Prior to 2010, detectives were set up in satellite offices throughout the city. Today, all officers in the unit work in the same space, a contributing factor to their increased ability to identify crime trends, Kettleman said.

“When we’re not together, we’re not as aware of what the other group is doing,” Kettleman said. “When we combine our efforts it’s more effective when it comes to filing charges. We’re more apt to identify trends and show if someone is responsible for other burglaries as well.”

The Texas Penal Code defines a theft as a person taking another’s property with the intent to deprive them of that property. A burglary, on the other hand, occurs when a person enters a residence or other building not open to the public with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault.

Thefts in the Austin area are consistently reported and occur at a rate four to five times higher than burglaries, according to APD’s annual crime reports. This difference is primarily due to the fact that most thefts occur as a crime of opportunity, while burglaries are premeditated and require more planning, Kettleman said.

“If someone leaves a phone on a counter at a store and they walk away and someone else picks it up, the person in line wasn’t standing there to steal, the opportunity just presented itself,” Kettleman said. “It’s a much bigger thing to kick someone’s door in and take someone’s property.”

Similar to city-wide averages, thefts are also the most commonly reported crime to the UT Police Department, according to their crime reports. While the UTPD primarily responds to on-campus crimes, their jurisdiction stretches beyond the campus area.

“Most of our buildings are open to the public during the day and most things stolen are left out in the open and unattended,” UTPD Lt. Laura Davis said in an email. “(The most thefts happen) when people leave their items unattended. Bikes, laptops then cell phones are the most common.”

The Austin burglary rate has consistently been lower than the national average in recent years, according to APD’s annual crime reports. Thefts, however, continue to be consistently higher than the national average and surrounding comparison cities, such as Dallas and Houston, despite these yearly declines.

To prevent burglary and theft, APD and UTPD recommend securing all doors, locks and windows of personal residences at all times, as well as engraving or marking personal items with a state-issued ID or driver’s license number and keeping personal items closely attended.

“Often burglaries are committed by individuals who take advantage of easy targets,” APD wrote on their burglary prevention tips web page. “Don’t make it easy for them.”