Austin on edge after second murder in homeless camp in three months: ‘Out of control’

By Madeline Coggins

A Texas business owner is sounding the alarm on the city of Austin’s growing homeless crisis as recent murders in encampments fuel public safety concerns.

“It seems to be getting worse,” said Larry Maddalena, who operates a local chiropractic office, on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday.

One man was killed in a tent community in North Austin after a fight broke out, police said Monday. The death is the second homicide in a homeless camp in the past three months, according to local reports.

The camps continue to plague the Democrat-run city despite voters reinstating a public encamping ban in 2021.

“Three years later, we’re left with a large homeless camp in the Austin area,” Maddalena said. “And it seems to just be getting out of control.”

As of January 2023, there were 2,374 homeless persons accounted for in Austin/Travis County, according to Point In Time data from Austin ECHO. Of those, 1,266 persons were unsheltered. 

The business owner told host Lawrence Jones he fears local law enforcement’s “hands are tied” as they battle a staffing crisis and lenient policies from George Soros-backed District Attorney Jose Garza.

“They defunded the police,” he said, referring to the city’s 2020 funding cuts later restored under state law. “We’re short several hundred officers for a town or city our size. So they’re spread so thin. Then we have a DA who would just let them out after they’re arrested, if they are arrested.”

“We’ve been asking the city for over a year to do something about this.”

Jamie Hammonds, an investigative filmmaker who runs the organization Documenting Austin’s Streets and Homeless, or DASH, shared videos earlier this month on Twitter, showing a homeless encampment in the Violet Crown Trail after roughly a year of neglect.

“It’s destroyed. It will never be the same,” Hammonds tweeted.

Videos shot by Hammonds show piles of trash littering the trail as far as the eye can see. Hammonds reported seeing cars, trailers, mountains of garbage, needles, human waste, and hundreds of homeless. 

Hammonds also blamed city officials for worsening the problem, arguing policies have pushed people experiencing homelessness into greenbelt areas, out of the public’s view. Consequently, many city dwellers are unaware the problem persists.  

Since the videos, the city said last week that it has begun relocating people as part of an initiative to close out homeless encampments that pose the highest public health and safety risks.

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