A 47-year-old man who failed to register in the sex offender database was arrested in Austin, Texas, last week after police officers caught him in the middle of a sexual act with an autistic teenager, and one expert says the city’s move to defund police has put it at the mercy of such criminals.
The Austin Police Department said Ronald Christopher Martin was seen by a police officer sexually assaulting an autistic teenager on Dec. 27 with an active warrant out for his arrest for failing to properly register as a sex offender, KXAN reported.
Investigators said Martin, a homeless man, solicited nude photos from the teenager online and brought him to Austin across state lines despite being aware he was 14 years old.
Martin had failed to register his address in relation to a previous sex offense he committed in Texas. He faces charges stemming from this as well as the more recent alleged offense, which crossed state lines.
Martin, who is listed as a lifetime high-risk sexual offender by the Texas Department of Public Safety, has previous convictions for multiple child sex crime convictions, including at least one with a 7-year-old boy, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
According to 13-year Austin police officer Justin Berry, the incident is directly related to Austin’s decision to strip funding from the police in 2020, which he says pulled resources from units that monitor and purse convicted sex offenders.
"When the city of Austin defunded us by a third of our budget they also cut 150 officer positions," Berry, who is running to represent Texas’s 19th House District, told Fox News Digital on Wednesday. "They always talk about how they gave the money back, but they didn’t give the positions back."
Berry said one of the units that lost officers and resources in the Austin Police Department was the unit that monitors sex offenders.
"They took those officers back and those officers were tasked with field visits, sex offender compliance checks, things that could have prevented things like this from happening," Berry explained.
Berry says that officers were taken away from following up on sex crimes and replaced with civilians who do not have the same authority as officers to pursue crimes and make arrests, which takes more time in the system and potentially allows sex offenders to move or commit more crimes.
"This guy felt emboldened, look what he does, he goes across state lines and kidnaps a kid with a learning disability and brings him back to Texas and sexually assaults him," Berry said. "That's not OK. People should be shocked by that. If that doesn't shock your conscience I don't know what will."
The city of Austin shattered its record for homicides in a year in 2021 recording 89 murders compared to the previous record of 59 set in 1960.
In addition to the grim milestone, a record-breaking surge in officers leaving the force stemming from the police defending and low morale has caused massive staffing shortages that has left citizens to fend for themselves.
"Homicides are one of the many violent crimes that have gone up this year and it's just one more reason we need to refund the police department and hire more police officers so we can let police have enough people to answer the priority and emergency calls," Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told Fox News in October. "It's one more example of needing a bigger police force with a city that's growing out of control with other people moving here from the rest of the country."
"It's very hard to be proactive when you don't even have enough officers to answer 911 calls," Casaday added, explaining that there is a direct correlation between defunding the police and the rise in various crimes.