City Council says recent assaults not related to ordinance changes
AUSTIN, Texas - Earlier this week, FOX 7 Austin reported on a violent attack on the Congress Avenue Bridge.
37-year-old Timothy Mitchell, a homeless man with a long rap sheet, was arrested for that assault.
City Council said there is no data that shows violent crime increased following ordinance changes made in June, but the victims of the assault think otherwise.
“We've got a problem in this city. Everyone knows it. The council members don't seem to take it as seriously as someone like I do now,” said Mark Dolan, who is still recovering after he was punched numerous times in the head.
Dolan said he was trying to help save a woman from a violent attacker on October 6 and ended up taking the brunt of the assault himself.
“I got stitches on the side of my head, on my lip, and contusions on my skull and my ear was all swollen, black and blue,” said Dolan.
The 59-year-old with Parkinson’s said he often volunteers at Community First Village, which provides affordable housing to those who used to be chronically homeless.
However, since City Council loosened restrictions on camping in public, he's noticed a difference in the homeless population downtown.
“It's out of control right now and I'm sure I'm not the only one that's been assaulted,” Dolan said.
“We have hundreds of people running around the streets of Austin that consistently get arrested for assaults, selling narcotics, shooting people, stabbing people,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
After learning about the attack that left Dolan bruised and bloody, City Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan questioned Police Chief Brian Manley about what can be done with repeat offenders living on the street.
“Here's someone with a criminal history walking around the community. What is the public safety response to this type of situation?” asked Flannigan.
“Well, if they paid their debt to society, even if they're on parole or probation and abiding by the terms of their parole or probation, then that's all, as a police department, that's all we do,” Manley responded.
Flannigan said there's no connection between repeat offenders and changes to the camping ordinance that he can find. He called out the Austin Police Association for suggesting there was on social media.
“I think it's really important for us as council members and for those that have a responsibility to protect public safety, to not continue to incite fear and then use the fear they've incited to attack the work of our staff,” said Flannigan.
Casaday said Flannigan missed the point.
“What that was about was honoring Mr. Dolan for the great work he did, and also calling out the district attorney's office and the county attorney's office for lack of prosecution,” said Casaday.
“They don't like people to talk back, and they don't like people, especially a city employee like myself, to tell them that they're wrong,” he added.
Dolan said he just hopes city council makes changes to ordinances before someone else gets assaulted.
“How often does it happen? Do the city leaders even know what's going on? I don't know that they do and I hope they get this message,” said Dolan.