Austin Police Department turns to AI as staffing crisis looms
Artificial Intelligence-based software deployed to file non-emergency police reports in Austin, Texas.
The defunded Austin, Texas, police department launched a new non-emergency online reporting system on Thursday that is operated with artificial intelligence, or AI.
In an announcement on Thursday, the Austin Police Department (APD) said it partnered with Versaterm Public Safety’s Case Service to launch the new reporting software that communicates with the community through voice, mobile, web and text messaging, instantaneously.
As it communicates with the public, the AI asks questions and fills out a report that provides "key information" to the department within hours, like an officer wrote it up.
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Some of the types of reports the interface accepts include minor assaults, threats other than domestic violence, burglary not involving arson, theft unless it involves prescriptions, firearms, explosives, vehicle license plates and vehicles, and lost or missing property.
The AI can also file reports on fraud, harassment, damaged property, graffiti, identity theft, child custody issues, trespassing, shoplifting reports, forgery and counterfeiting.
Primarily, the new program can file a report unless the person reporting it is under 17 years of age, the suspect is no longer on the scene, and there is no immediate danger.
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"This platform reduces wait times for community members and speeds up the investigation process," the department said in the online announcement.
After a file is submitted, a case number is assigned to the person who made the report.
Reports can be taken in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese, and several other languages.
"We are confident this technology will streamline the reporting process, alleviate the current backlog for APD non-emergency requests submitted via 3-1-1, and provide community members personalized attention to their incidents," the release read. "Upon successful deployment of this first phase, APD plans to expand the use of Case Service further."
The deployment of the AI-based software comes as the City of Austin faces serious staffing issues with its police department.
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Last week, it was reported that 40 officers filed retirement papers after a 9-2 city council vote a few weeks ago to scrap a four-year contract that the city agreed to. But instead, the city council pursued a 1-year contract that the police union rejected.
The move from the city is believed by many to be because of intense pressure from anti-police activists in Austin who are looking to put a hold on a long-term deal until after voters decide on competing ballot initiatives dealing with police oversight, which will be voted on in May.
Budget cuts by the city council during the George Floyd unrest in 2020 slashed police cadet classes and sent staffing in a downward spiral that could take more than 10 years to recover from, according to police sources, if the ship were righted immediately.
The department also eliminated some task forces because of staffing issues, which left some types of crime ignored, and forced police to stop responding to non-emergencies.
As a result, the city set an all-time record for homicides in 2021 and morale within the department caved in.
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Andrew Mark Miller of Fox News contributed to this report.