Gov. Greg Abbott ordered increased patrols around state buildings in Austin and UT campus, in a letter to the director of Texas’ Department of Public Safety on Thursday.
In the letter addressed to DPS director Steve McCraw, Abbott specified that patrols will monitor within two blocks of all Austin state buildings and the University to “strictly enforce all state and local laws,” starting Monday.
Abbott cited recent crimes committed by homeless people in Austin, including the fatal stabbing last Friday on South Congress. Dylan Woodburn, who was identified as homeless by Austin Police, allegedly attacked two employees, killing Johnathan Aguilar. Abbott also cited a stabbing between two homeless people in downtown Austin on Wednesday.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler accused Abbott in a series of tweets of “demonizing” homeless people in the governor’s critiques of Austin’s homeless policies, and asked the governor to fund better services, such as mental health clinics, substance abuse treatment and housing for vulnerable populations, according to the Texas Tribune.
Abbott said in his letter that the responsibility of mitigating crime enacted by homeless people falls onto the city and is not the responsibility of the state.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is not charged with the duty to police the streets of Austin — that is the City of Austin’s responsibility,” Abbott said in the letter. “However, the State of Texas must do all it can to protect the safety of all its residents and visitors.”
In June, the Austin City Council retracted three ordinances that banned camping, sitting or lying in public spaces within the city limits. The council altered these policies in October by banning camping again, but only within city sidewalks and areas near homeless shelters.