Stabbing spree in Austin nightlife district leads to push for increased safety efforts

A stabbing spree in Austin’s nightlife district has led to a push for increased safety efforts in the downtown and UT Austin area. 

Thursday night into Friday morning, Austin Police believe five people were stabbed in the area of Sixth and Neches Street by Raeshala Morris, who also goes by Raecala. In an affidavit police say they used halo camera footage, to track Morris to the ARCH, a resource center for the homeless, located a block away from the stabbing spree.

Police say Morris confessed to stabbing five people. Friday afternoon, police were able to confirm Morris stabbed at least three people. 

Sunday morning, UT Austin Police Chief, David Carter confirmed two of the stabbing victims were UT Austin students. He said one student had just come forward. 

This prompted Governor Greg Abbott to tweet about the need to increase lighting and security tools around the UT campus. He said he expects “results next month.”

Increased lighting and security tools is something the “Safehorns” a grassroots group “committed to improving safety” for those at and around UT Austin, has long advocated for. 

“There’s a lot of conversations that have happened over the last five years, [the governor] is the first though to say ‘this needs to be addressed, I want to see action over the next month.’” said Safehorns President, Joell McNew, adding that the group is “grateful” for the governor. 

Later in the day, UT President Gregory Fenves sent a letter out to students addressing the stabbings, and stating that the university “is currently developing a plan to hire additional police officers, expand patrols and upgrade security-related technology.” 

“We feel like this is so great, sadly for us, it’s at the expense of someone impacted by violent crime,” McNew said. 

This all comes after a press conference Friday afternoon, where Austin Police Chief Brian Manley addressed the stabbings and said the city was going to “take a very strong stance against what has been an increasing level of assault that we have seen so far this year.”

Manley said Austinites should expect an increased police presence in the nightlife district beginning this weekend with officers, working overtime. 

McNew says she believes many Austinites “have concerns about crime and concerns about our council not supporting the police department, and that’s a really big issue --- we’re short-staffed.” 

Manley also said the Department of Public Safety, which already has a presence in the city is committing an additional twenty troopers to Austin -- and that a long-term plan, would be worked out next week. 

Manley says the department was working on increased safety plans for the city prior to the stabbing spree in response to a recent spike in crime and the upcoming festival SXSW. 

At the annual Point in Time Count Saturday morning Mayor Steve Adler contested the suggestion that a spike in downtown crime, could be linked to homelessness. 

“The suggestion that there’s a link between criminality and homelessness is not supported by the facts it is harmful it is dangerous and it makes it so people get scared and they’re less likely to actually help people experiencing homelessness,” he said. 

That same day, the governor issued a statement that read in part “city leaders of Austin have allowed lawlessness throughout the capital city that is resulting in violence against Austin residents, including those who are homeless.”