Tucked away in the suburbs of Austin is a neighborhood where, just a few years ago, there was a home invasion every few months.
A house agent would call the police when someone came into the house.
But after more than a decade, this neighborhood has become one of the most dangerous in the state, with more than half a dozen active crimes in the last year alone.
The crime is happening so fast that the police are taking a very different approach to house agents today, rather than the old-fashioned approach of putting them on alert.
“The police are really getting a little bit more proactive,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said, noting that he believes house agents are now being more vigilant.
Aceveda said officers will be patrolling the neighborhood on foot and on bikes.
But officers won’t be going door-to-door to get house agents to report crimes.
Instead, officers will focus on stopping people who have broken into houses.
“It’s a lot easier to make a call if they’re in a car, and they’re out of their car and they just happen to be walking down the street,” Acevede said.
“We’ll be targeting them as they come into the neighborhood and we’ll make a phone call.”
Acevedos police department has been conducting house surveillance on behalf of the FBI since 2013, but the department doesn’t typically target its officers for surveillance.
Instead Acevedes department is focused on deterring crimes, rather a more proactive approach that includes taking house agents out for a drink.
“I don’t want them to get involved in the fight,” Aceveres chief said.
“[If] we can prevent the house from being broken into and not get a call out to the house and get a message out to them, that’s good for the community.”
The city’s strategy involves putting the neighborhood under constant watch by officers patrolling the area.
“You’re watching them in the street, you’re monitoring them in their homes, you know, they’re watching the surveillance cameras and they know if they come back, they have to be aware that there’s a potential burglary on the house,” Acevingo said.
Aceves plan to put a new unit of house agents on the street in the next few weeks, to monitor the area more closely.
Police are also now using drones to catch crime scenes, using them to track people who are seen walking around or at a house.
Aceves department hopes that the increased use of drones will help prevent crimes in future.
Acevingos police are also using social media to get their message out.
“There’s been a lot of talk about drones being used in house agents and I want to make sure that we’re not missing opportunities,” Acevides police chief said, explaining that his department is using drones as a way to get people’s attention.
“This is an area that’s getting attention and we want to get the word out so people know about this.”
While the number of house agent crimes is still in the low thousands, Acevedas office has seen an uptick in house-breaking burglaries in recent years.
Last year, there were 6,955 house-robbing burglaries and 6,541 property crimes, Acevets office said.
But there were also more burglaries than thefts and fewer burglaries committed by juveniles than the previous year.
The rise in house agent burglaries is attributed to the fact that some of the people involved have not been identified.
“One of the things that has to be considered is, if someone is being observed, it’s an area where we don’t have the technology that we need to know who they are,” Aceves city attorney said.
In response to the increase in burglaries, Aceves chief said the department will begin using drone technology in the coming weeks to help catch criminals.
“Drones are going to allow us to do this,” Acevalos chief said of drones.
“In fact, we’re using them as a part of our enforcement system.
And when you have technology that is so advanced that we can use it to make the calls that we’ve had to make, then you start thinking about whether it’s worth having.”