AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Abbott asked TxDPS to increase trooper patrols starting Monday, January 13.
An attack involving a knife near the convention center on Wednesday was between two homeless men according to investigators. But apparently it was also the last straw for governor Greg Abbott.
That evening, in a tweet he called for new safety patrols downtown and at U.T. In the post, he repeated his criticism, made Tuesday, of Austin's homeless policies.
"What Austin has done, over the past half-year, is to perpetuate a sense of lawlessness in this city by the homeless,” said Gov. Abbott during his roundtable on domestic terrorism.
Thursday morning Governor Abbott sent a letter to the head of DPS making his tweet official.
Starting Monday, troopers will patrol two block areas around all state-owned property. Not just downtown but apparently throughout Austin.
Along with portions of downtown, the possible patrol zones may extend to other locations like state offices on Riverside; sites near ABIA, by Camp Mabry and next to the Triangle district.
In a statement sent to FOX 7 Austin, officials at APD said they have “a positive relationship with DPS” but have not received official notification about increased patrols.
It’s not known how long the extra patrol deployment will last or how many Troopers will be needed.
"We really appreciate it now that the council is talking about canceling one of our Academy classes in June,” said APA President Ken Casaday.
The extra help may be welcomed, but Casaday warned the problem should not be over-simplified. "There are homeless people committing these crimes but there are also people who we deal with on a daily basis that live in a home, and commit the same type of violent crime, so to me this is more of a drug issue and a mental health issue,” said Casaday.
The deployment around UT will not cover all of West Campus. In a statement sent to FOX 7 Austin, UT police Chief David Carter only said they will continue to work closely with APD, DPS, and other law enforcement to keep the campus safe.
Officials with DPS declined to say if patrols will be done on wheels, on foot or a combination of both.
"There is an ebb and flow of crime in this area when boots are on the ground,” said Joell McNew with SAFE Horns.
McNew and the organization has been pushing for safety upgrades on and off-campus for several years. "We are grateful for Governor Abbott and anything he is going to do because he is actually taking action and that’s something we've been asking for,” said McNew.
Abbott first stepped into the debate last fall by ordering the cleanup of homeless camps under highway overpasses. About the time clean up started, signs started going up in front of several state office buildings. They warn that camping, as well as any other unauthorized activity on state property, not allowed.
People who spoke to FOX 7 Austin said students should not worry about being attacked but the homeless community still need to be helped.
Casaday agreed that proving more shelter is needed but said it may also be time to reconsider the old strategy of forced commitments "Where do you put these people when they don’t want help because they are a drain on our society and they are a very big danger to our community,” said Casaday.
In West Campus, the focus of SAFE Horns will continue to be putting pressure on the city. McNew said they want better lighting and the installation of emergency call boxes.