Austin Police say incidents involving use of force, assault on officers, and interference with public duties have dropped. It's also in a part of town where officers encounter those situations more than anywhere else. Police credit using whistles for the decrease.
It's small, costs under six bucks and it's loud. The Fox 40 is even louder than regular whistles. It's carried by every Austin Police officer who works the entertainment district in downtown.
Police wanted to see if using whistles would make any difference in cutting down on certain crimes.
It may sound strange but police say whistles are effective. Whistles were handed out April 26th. Austin Police have just released the results of a 90 day study on the use of the whistles.
Compared to the previous three months, three major problems that plague downtown more than anywhere else, decreased.
Level three response to resistance, previously known as use of force, are situations where officers use Tasers or pepper sprays. Those decreased by 32%. Level two response to resistance incidents are those where officers use batons on suspects. They went down by 75%. Interference with public duties decreased by 33% and assaults on officers dropped by 75%.
Lieutenant Pat Connor says it has to do with getting people's attention and preventing a violent situation from happening.
"Officers who work downtown learn to judge the crowd, watch the crowd, see people's body, body postures, movements in the way they're moving so as you see two individuals that appear to be posturing to each other, yelling at each other, obviously about to get in a disturbance that potentially is going to escalate into a violent disturbance, you start walking or running in that direction, you can blow the whistle and inevitably they're going to turn and look at you," Connor said.
The study also compared the 90 days to the same 90 days as last year since summer times are busier. The results are just as significant with drops in level 3 and level 2 responses to resistance incidents, 23% and 80%percent respectively. Interference with public duties went down 67% and assaults on officers decreased by 60%.
Mounted patrol officers have always used whistles to move crowds. The Fox 40's are at a louder decibel than the ones handed out to the homeless population in early august.
So next time you head downtown, besides seeing crowds, don't be surprised to see and hear officers.