As the Austin City Council continues considering more upheaval of the local police department, a coalition of parents and citizens are warning city hall of the heightened safety risks and consequences for university students.

Recently, amid nationwide riots and protest violence, the city council voted to partially defund the Austin Police Department, though the amount is yet to be determined (some socialist groups are petitioning city officials to take away over $100 million—a quarter—of APD’s budget).

In response, “SafeHorns,” an organization of citizens advocating for improved student safety at the University of Texas at Austin, not only testified against the council’s decision but recently wrote an open letter to them, “demanding answers and action.”

“We have met with you many, many times and you’ve taken no action. Now, you all are part of the conversation to defund, reform, abolish public safety in Austin as we know it,” read their post on Facebook.

The organization described recent dangerous incidents on campus where students were assaulted, including a robbery at gunpoint and an arrest of a “serial criminal.”

“Please explain to us how defunding public safety will improve the community?” the post reads. “Do you feel that [the serial criminal’s] criminal history with arrests in January, March, April, and now June could be de-escalated by a social worker?”

“Crime keeps escalating and now we’re talking about defunding public safety. What is that going to look like?” asked Joelle McNew, SafeHorns’ president.

“Students are fearful to walk through [UT’s West Campus], and we’ve been advocating with the City for years to see improvements,” she added.

SafeHorns was also outspoken last year when the city council made the controversial decision to allow homeless individuals to camp at public spaces across the city, including UT’s campus. The decision sparked public safety risk as well as a wildfire of public backlash; a slew of local, state, and national law enforcement and elected officials spoke out against the decision, and over 105,000 citizens signed a petition calling for the law’s reversal.

The calls turned into outrage as numerous violent incidents, assaults, and even murders unfolded in the city by those believed to be homeless. APD also revealed data that violent crime rose in the city.

“Mayor [Steve] Adler has done nothing for the UT Austin students regarding safety,” McNew said.

Now, with the council partially defunding APD and with the most recent assaults on campus, SafeHorns parents are calling out city officials yet again.

“What is your plan? Explain to this survivor and our entire community how you are going to commit to keeping Austin safe,” their post continues. “We’ve had enough!”

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.

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