Urgent Issues Action Plan


 

PUBLIC SAFETY, CRIME PREVENTION, AND VICTIMIZATION

Crime in Travis County has consistently decreased in the last several years. Despite this improvement, spending on incarceration and the justice system is on the rise. While prevention and intervention are more successful and cost-effective methods for addressing criminal behavior than incarceration, emphasis continues to be put on being "tough on crime", with little emphasis on addressing root causes of criminal behavior and long-term impacts on victims.

Because the juvenile crime-prone population (i.e., the number of individuals ages 10 to 16) is expected to grow by 19% in the next five years, it is likely that juvenile crime will increase as well. If root causes of criminal behavior are not addressed through prevention and intervention, we will likely see additional increases in incarceration and justice system spending.

Hundreds of individuals with a variety of backgrounds were involved in the creation of the attached matrix, which outlines some strategies and suggestions to address the issues around public safety, crime prevention, and victimization. Strategies include:

INCREASE AWARENESS SO THAT THE COMMUNITY IS OPEN TO IMPLEMENTING MORE EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY
Some policymakers and community members are not aware of 1) the benefits of balancing funding for incarceration and prevention/intervention, 2) the need to improve the delivery of prevention services, 3) the need to improve the service delivery system for victims of crime, and 4) the need to better prepare adult offenders for life in the community. To make a true impact in these areas, policymakers and community members must be aware of more cost-effective strategies to increase public safety.

ENHANCE THE SOCIAL SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM FOR YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES, VICTIMS, AND OFFENDERS
More resources are invested in incarceration than in prevention and intervention for youth, victims, and offenders:
Youth and their families. Currently, a fragmented and limited system of services exists for troubled youth, especially those below age 10. Services are not always directed to those most in need, and the needs of youth and families are not always addressed comprehensively.
Victims. A generally inaccessible and fragmented victim services system exists for victims of all ages.
Offenders. Once individuals enter the justice system, programming to address their educational, vocational, substance use, and mental health needs is sometimes limited. In addition, there is a general lack of services for adult offenders released into the community from incarceration, especially in the areas of employment and housing assistance.

IMPROVE ACCESS TO AND QUALITY OF DATA RELATING TO PUBLIC SAFETY
While the quantity and quality of data in this area has improved greatly over the last several years, information for informed planning is still lacking, especially around victims and their needs. This information is needed so that the community can make more informed planning decisions.

INCREASE RESOURCES TO CREATE AND MAINTAIN EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS
Resources for prevention and intervention have not kept pace with the rapid population growth in Travis County. To impact public safety, additional resources to create and maintain effective programs will be necessary.

THE PUBLIC SAFETY, CRIME PREVENTION, AND VICTIMIZATION PLANNING PROCESS
In May 2000, the Community Action Network Public Safety, Crime Prevention, and Victimization Community Assessment was released. The report included general recommendations for improving public safety in Austin/Travis County. These recommendations were based upon the literature, local data, and input from more than 150 individuals in the community.

These recommendations were the topic of discussion at the Community Action Network/ Community Justice Council Public Safety Planning Retreat held July 21, 2000. At this Retreat, to which nearly 1,000 community members, service providers, justice system employees, and health and human service system employees were invited, participants broke into groups to develop outcomes/goals and specific action steps designed to implement the recommendations. The resulting goals and actions are included in the planning matrix.

The CAN assessment and planning process has already had several successes:

  • An Assessment Center Advisory Committee and Work Group under the Community Justice Council are implementing a youth and family assessment center, known as The Link.
  • A group called the Travis County After-School Network (TCAN) has been meeting regularly to address after-school programming needs identified during the Planning Retreat.
  • Four Action Work Groups for each of the critical issues in the matrix are meeting regularly to work toward the actions recommended during the Planning Retreat.

THE PUBLIC SAFETY, CRIME PREVENTION, AND VICTIMIZATION MATRIX
The attached matrix presents the urgent issues, solutions, and recommended actions for each objective. Programs that address the problem are named, and opportunities for investments are listed. The Community's task is to enhance prevention and intervention efforts for youth, victims, and offenders so as to increase public safety. The matrix is intended to be a straightforward tool to help with those tasks.

Contact Sheila Dhir Hughes at (512) 473-4271 for questions or suggestions about the Public Safety, Crime Prevention, and Victimization objectives.

2001 Urgent Issues Action Plan Home Page