APD bolsters top offender list for increased bonds, prosecution

AUSTIN (KXAN) – During the midnight hour of Oct. 4, 2011, Ricardo Vara, the owner of Rick’s Auto Repair, was awakened by a call from his mechanic.

“He said someone had broken into the shop,” recalled Vara about that night three years ago. That mechanic happened to be staying at the shop and called 911. When officers arrived, they arrested Brandon Seffens on the scene. After Seffens was put into a police car, Vara remembers what the arresting officer told him.

“He said ‘we are going to put him up for good now,’” said Vara. “The police had a long record of him breaking into places in the area.”

At the time of that arrest, Seffens had already been charged for burglary of a non-residence on five previous occasions. But despite a two-year sentence for burglarizing Rick’s Auto Repair, Seffens’ name keeps appearing on the arrest sheet.

“I feel disappointed with the system,” said Vara. “I do not see why he keeps getting out when he commits the same crime over and over again.”

With two more arrests in 2014, Seffens’ record now features 17 arrests and 12 convictions on 14 felonies and 11 misdemeanors since 2008. The charges against him over that time period include assault on a public servant, burglary of a building, theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, evading arrest, and criminal trespass.

That record earned him a spot on the Austin Police Department Top Offenders list, but up until recently, APD Crime Analysis Division Manager Ron MacKay admits that list did not mean much.

“There were about 2,000 people on the list, but there was no follow through with what they were doing,” said MacKay. “There were no teeth to the program.”

So last year, APD decided to scrap the program and start fresh with something new. From 2,000 names, they used algorithms which assigned different weights to different crimes and forged a new, more focused list with 140 of the city’s top re-offenders.

“These are the people who cause a disproportionate amount of crime in the city of Austin,” said MacKay

Under the new program, people identified as a top offender will be arrested by a metro tactical team, but officers will ask for an increased bond amount based on the likelihood of reoffending. MacKay said APD is working with magistrate judges and the district attorney’s office to secure higher bond amounts and tougher prosecution for those names on the top offender list.

“If we can keep the worst of the worst off the street, then mathematically the city would be better,” said MacKay.

Seffens was charged with theft on Wednesday for a car burglary alleged to have taken place in June. In the arrest warrant, APD details his criminal history and underlines their request for the magistrate judge to “please consider awarding a significantly high bond.” Bond for the theft case was set at $35,000 which MacKay considers a substantial amount for the crime and the charge.

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