John Abraham waited three hours for a police officer to show up after someone broke into his home in 2009. He filled out a report and never heard anything, says the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s not cool to feel like police don’t even care,” he says. Last year, there were more than 8,000 reported burglaries in Austin, and typically only 5 percent of them will end in arrest, with the victim’s items being returned. The national average is 10 percent. Critics say there’s more that could be done by the department to track down or follow up with burglaries, but police say a lack of staffing is keeping them from solving more. With 14 crime scene technicians on staff, police can only respond to about 45 percent of reported burglaries.
Officers are trained to collect some evidence, however it’s common for the more experienced crime scene technician to be called out, said Tim O’Brien, a property crime technician for the police department. He said he works on three to four burglaries a day. Because the clearance rate, or percentage of burglaries solved, is slipping, police should allocate more resources toward solving burglaries, said Kim Rossmo, who researches geographical patterns in crime at Texas State University in San Marcos. He said police in other jurisdictions have technology installed in pawn shops so that when a stolen item is sold, they are automatically alerted. Rossmo said burglars move from one neighborhood to another quickly , making them even more difficult to track down. “(Police) are responding mostly to data, and that’s already too late,” Rossmo said. “If you want to catch a burglar, you have to understand how they work.”