Austin police using app to clear crash scenes faster

AUSTIN (KXAN) — AutoReturn is an app that allows officers to send out an alert from a crash scene when a tow truck is needed. That call is then accepted by one of 33 tow companies who work with Auto Return, who then respond the incident.

Before now, Austin police would dispatch tow trucks to the scene by going down a rotation list, calling the next company in line. That sometimes means the closest tow truck wasn’t the one responding to the scene. AusTex Towing Manager, Melissa Frederick, says that the software allows all the necessary information about a call directly to a driver’s cell phone.

“The green dots indicate my drivers that are currently logged in and available. It shows me the driver’s name.”

Previously a tow truck took anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to respond to a crash site. Since APD started using AutoReturn this year, trucks have towed 1,000 vehicles from Austin roadways with an average response time of less than eight minutes. That’s even better than last month when times averaged around nine minutes. Detective Thomas Ballard with Austin police says this technology will not only help lanes open up faster after wrecks, but also help the police department.

“These officers are not having to sit out at a collision scene for an extra 20-30 minutes waiting on a tow truck when they could be taking calls on the street.”

Currently, Austin in the only city in Texas that is using AutoReturn. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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