At Tuesday's Austin City Council meeting, Police Chief Joseph Chacon gave an update on the Austin Police Department's Victim Services Unit and how it has been handling sexual assault cases.
The changes Chacon discussed were spurred by a 2019 audit report by the Texas Department of Public Safety that revealed a significant number of rape cases were mishandled by APD, leading them to be incorrectly cleared or misclassified.
Chacon said that since the audit, APD has been increasing staffing. The Sex Crimes Unit now has 20 full-time detectives, three sergeants, one lieutenant and one commander. There is also a victims services manager and five full-time victim services counselors. Outside of that unit, APD has an additional 24 counselors who serve in units like crisis services and domestic violence, KVUE reports.
Chacon said APD has been having new detectives work with the Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (SARRT) to get them better trained. APD also recently made a change to where a police officer and a counselor are dispatched to the scene of a sex crime at the same time. In previous years, the officer would be dispatched alone and a counselor would only be called if the officer felt that one was needed or the victim requested one.