APD: Small number of violent crimes downtown involve homeless people

According to the Austin Police Department, in the majority of violent crimes that are happening in Austin citywide, 14 percent of those cases involved a homeless suspect.

Police also addressed downtown stats in a work session. “When we are looking at violent crime incidents especially in the downtown area, a small number of them involve an individual experiencing homelessness,” said Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon.

Mayor Steve Adler says this proves one thing. “People need to know that if you are experiencing homelessness you are much more likely to be the victim of a crime than to perpetrate or commit a crime. There is no evidence a change in our ordinances has contributed to an increase in violent crime,” he said.

This conversation comes after recent stories have circulated in media. The most recent, being a man, who threatened children at a playground in South Austin.

“He spoke about how something shows up on social media, not supported by evidence or data it gets spread around it gets a life of its own,” said Adler, referring to Chacon’s statement at the council work session.

FOX 7 Austin asked about the numbers and if they should be analyzed on a per capita basis when it comes to violent crime.

“There are lots of different ways to look at numbers. When you're dealing with numbers that are so small it's hard to really draw conclusions, because the numbers are not statistically significant. We had five murders last year using knives. You know how many concerned people experiencing homelessness? None,” said Adler.

“That's not what I heard,” said Sharon Blythe.

Most of the reported crimes are not committed by the homeless but the homeless are a very small part of the population. Some in that population are responsible for several violent crimes in downtown Austin alone.   

Blythe started a petition to recall Adler, Ann Kitchen, Kathie Tovo, Natasha Harper-Madison, and Paige Ellis. “They are in the voting block with the mayor and trying to pass all these anti-citizen initiatives,” said Blythe.

She feels the council should do more to protect citizens, but also get help for the homeless.

“If they have millions of dollars they can be doing that effectively and spending money wisely instead of passing more and more homeless initiatives where it gives them more leeway to do what they want to do,” said Blythe.

Adler believes when it comes to the homeless population public perception has been skewed by social media, social media that picked up on the two stabbed at Freebirds, tourists attacked on the Ann Richards bridge and others.

“We had an incident this year where someone was killed involving someone experiencing homelessness. Do we then conclude now that kind of crime is associated with homelessness? We have so few incidents where it's hard to truly draw broad conclusions,” said Adler.