APD Takes Three Hours to Respond to Head-On Crash

A photo tweeted by Murphy McCollough following the crash (Photo via Murphy McCollough / Twitter)

Murphy McCollough wrote that the call she received from her sister Sept. 13 was the “most terrifying phone call I’ve ever been on.”

After a white Ford F-250 crashed head-on into her sister’s car, it took police more than three hours to arrive at the scene. Once they did, the driver of the truck was gone, and there was no police report.

McCollough’s post on X the day after the crash includes photos of the white F-250 on top of the crushed hood of her sister’s sedan.

Police spokesperson Brandon Jones told the Chronicle that APD received a 911 call at about 6:50pm reporting a crash at the intersection of Azie Morton Road and Barton Hills Drive, and it was classified as “Crash Urgent.” “Officers in Southwest Austin responded to numerous calls prioritized as higher emergencies,” Jones said. “This unfortunate series of events and the staffing crisis at APD led to a delay in our ability to respond promptly to other urgent situations.”

So what were those higher emergencies? APD incident report data doesn’t show any incidents in the 78704 ZIP code during the 6pm hour – at least none that resulted in a written report. Neither were there, during that hour, any incidents leading to a report in the larger Southwest Austin sector.

At about 7:40pm, an hour after the 911 call reporting the crash, incident reports show police in the 78704 ZIP code were involved in a car chase, for which they ultimately recommended charges of evading arrest, damage to a city vehicle, aggravated assault, and tampering with evidence.

Shortly after that, at about 8:10pm, police prioritized a call for criminal mischief (vandalism) in 78704, which resulted in a written report the following day. About 40 minutes after the vandalism call, they responded to a reported accidental overdose in 78704.

In the meantime, McCollough and her sister waited for police for an hour and a half, with the fire department having already responded. By the time police arrived at the scene at 9:55pm, the drivers and cars were gone, and so officers could not take a report, Jones said.

It’s not uncommon for Austinites to complain about slow police response, and the Sept. 13 crash response closely mirrors a March 2023 crash, which took police 2.5 hours to respond to. In that case, a family in northwest Austin say their car was hit by a visibly drunk driver who admitted he’d just left a bar. Fox News framed the story as an example of the consequences of an underfunded police department. Incident reports from that day show only one other report in that ZIP code during the hour of the crash (a family disturbance), and only two reports total in the larger district.

“With a reallocation of resources to patrol, backfilling shifts with detectives, and offering a 15K hiring bonus, the Austin Police Department is actively working to increase our Patrol staffing levels to ensure we have resources available to handle calls,” Jones told the Chronicle. “We remain committed to improving our staffing levels and response times to serve our community better.”

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