AUSTIN, Texas - A newly released city survey shows people in Austin feel less safe downtown than they have in at least six years.
The study, administered by third party company ETC Institute, asked 2,049 people if they feel safe walking alone downtown at night. 55 percent said no.
It's not the only safety concern that saw a higher number. The number of people who feel unsafe in parks climbed six percent and those who feel unsafe downtown during the day jumped 10 percent.
“It's just changed a lot,” said Angela Tisdale who has lived in Austin her entire life.
Tisdale said with downtown Austin continually growing, she’s noticed some growing pains.
“I think we have a pretty large homeless population here and with them being able to camp anywhere, I could see how people would feel more uncomfortable with that for sure,” Tisdale said.
Last June, the city loosened restrictions on camping, sitting and lying in most public places in the city and the number of tents and homeless people seemed to multiply.
“There's people living on the streets everywhere now, which there wasn't that. I can go any direction here and I'm going to find a tent,” said Hiram King who said he does not feel unsafe but understands why some people may be afraid.
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For business owner Craig Staley, the changes drove away customers at his downtown Royal Blue Grocery locations.
“That's created this unpredictable feeling downtown. You don't know what somebody's going to say to you when they're coming the other way on the sidewalk, and it's unnerving to people, and it's keeping a lot of people out of downtown and keeps people away from our Congress store,” Staley said.
The annual survey shows a 12 percent increase in those who feel unsafe when they’re walking alone downtown at night compared to last year’s survey results.
People who spoke to FOX 7 Austin said they believe that is a result of Austin’s more visible homeless population.
“I know a lot of them. I've helped a lot of them. I talk to some of them day by day, but I don't feel safe walking down the street at night here,” Staley said.
“Sometimes stuff goes down on 6th Street. You never know what might happen. Or sometimes, even my friends, we'll get approached by strangers, despite what they may or may not want from us, every time it's a little bit nerve-wracking,” said Tisdale.
Mayor Adler provided the following statement to FOX 7 Austin:
“We highly value public safety in this city. Austin is the 4th safest large city in the country (closer to no. 1 than no. 5) and we remain fiercely committed to keeping our city safe. It is worth noting data shows Austin is in the top half of our 10 peer cities for “feeling safe walking downtown during the day” and “feeling safe while walking in parks.” Our city ranks at the average for people “feeling safe walking downtown at night.” There is still much work to be done, and we are up for the task."
“I understand the statistics, but what we've got to do now is address mental health and the people on our streets, because those are the ones making it not feel safe,” said Staley.
Look through all the results of the survey here and below.