Austin business owners say repeat offenders increased following ordinance changes

Police said a known transient is accused of assaulting a convenience store employee while trying to steal from the store. 

The man's criminal history shows he's been arrested more than 60 times in the past seven years. 

Assault on a public servant, resisting arrest and indecent exposure are a few of the arrests on Michael Pasley's lengthy rap sheet. It also includes more than 30 criminal trespass cases. 

“That person needs help. I mean, that's quite a record,” said Julie Nowlin who owns Jeweled Salon in Austin.  

On Friday at Fighting Orange convenience store, Pasley added a few more to the list, including robbery by assault. 

Austin business owners said dealing with repeat offenders is par for the course right now, especially since City Council made changes to camp, sit and lie ordinances. 

“All of a sudden, the folks that hang out downtown, some of them homeless, a lot of them are, started stealing from us repeatedly,” said Craig Staley, co-owner of Royal Blue Grocery. 

“There is more crime. We didn't have this in the salon before. We didn't see all this camping before. A lot of these people are new,” Nowlin said.  

Royal Blue Grocery has been using an online company chat room to alert all store managers about any crimes taking place, finding repeat offenders stealing from multiple stores in the process. 

“It's affected our business, it's affected our revenue here, our staff's ability to make money, they work off tips,” said Staley.  

Staley said he considered closing his store on Congress Avenue earlier to help protect his staff, but since then Staley said Austin police have helped restore some order on the sidewalk outside that location. 

“I can honestly say, if it weren't for APD, this store wouldn't be here today,” Staley said.  

However, enforcing misdemeanor crimes like petty theft and trespassing isn't necessarily solving the problem. 

“That's the hard part, is a lot of these folks down here have racked up tickets and tickets and tickets and that's not helping them, it's slowing them down from stealing from us is the only real effect,” said Staley.  

At some point, business owners said they have to wonder if it's even worth it to keep calling the cops. 

“A lot of this stuff doesn't get reported because it's a waste of our time, it's a waste of APD's time, I mean, every time I call those guys I'm like, ‘I'm sorry. I know you have more important things to do then deal with this,’” Staley said.  

However, business owners said at least the police are listening, because they feel largely ignored by the mayor. 

“He's not listening to the people. He's not protecting his constituents and he's not listening to the chief of police,” said Nowlin. 

The mayor said there is no data to show that violent crimes involving the homeless population have increased since Council made changes to ordinances. 

Meanwhile, the governor said he's working on a plan to step in if Council doesn't make changes by November 1.