Police shortages, crime and homelessness continue to ravage Austin, Texas, pressuring businesses to look into alternative measures to keep their livelihoods secure.
Residents say officer shortages, a byproduct of the Defund the Police epidemic that swept through major U.S. cities following George Floyd's death, mean getting the police on the case can take several minutes or sometimes even close to an hour when seconds count.
Rupal Chaudhari owns a business in Austin and has experienced the crime wave firsthand. She told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that not only was a hotel adjacent to her business turned into homeless housing without warning, she also witnessed thieves drive into her business' parking lot and make haste with steel and patio furniture, all in broad daylight.
"I couldn't do anything about it. I could not call the police, and this is just madness," she said.
"We reported, but police never came. We just filed a report," she explained.
Chaudhari, who is also an attorney and formerly ran for Travis County judge as a Republican, blames city officials for the problem. She said "failed homeless policies" and defunding the police have led residents to suffer the consequences.
"Nobody's taking any responsibility…" she continued. "I've seen this since 2020. The Progressive Zealots on Austin City Council, they pushed to defund the police and, we saw a crime wave go on. To make matters worse, they actually went ahead and cut millions of dollars from 911 staffing, and one of the zealots got a taste of their own medicine, I would say, when she was on hold for 28 minutes to speak to 911 call dispatcher."
In light of the crime's havoc loosed on businesses, she said many are turning to private security to stay safe and protect their property.
In a similar vein, Austin resident Joell McNew, president of a non-profit organization known as SafeHorns and a crime prevention consulting business called Safeguard Strategy, said she aims to help business owners and other community members enhance safety for the sake of property and people.
"Because part of our defunding, we don't have the staffing of our police department, so we've got to educate our neighbors and our community what they can do in terms of crime prevention, because we are having a difficult time with our 911 staffing, which then relates to 911 response times," she told Fox News Digital Monday.
She also blamed city officials and the Defund the Police movement for crime, saying, despite persistent complaints, nothing has changed.
"I love Austin, and it's very frustrating that we go to City Hall, we take time off from work, we go up there, and we advocate to our city leaders to address public safety, and they only listen to the anti-police activists who hate the police, who've made it very clear that their goal is to dismantle our police department. And they're doing a great job, and they're aligned with our county attorney and our district attorney," she continued.
"When they talked about a couple of years ago reimagining public safety, they've done nothing to reimagine public safety," she added.
For McNew, crime concerns began even earlier with the non-profit organization SafeHorns. According to the group's site, it consists of "parents, students, stakeholders, and citizens" dedicated to addressing crime by improving safety on campus at the University of Texas at Austin.
The April 2016 sexual assault and death of UT Austin freshman Haruka Weiser made the campus community more vigilant about crime, McNew said. SafeHorns, which alludes to the university's Longhorn mascot, was created later that year.
"[Weiser’s murder] really changed our family's life forever. It was shocking. It was horrific, and we've been talking about crime on and around campus and crime in Austin in general, but we really didn't look at crime when we were touring our college campus," she said.
"We were looking at, is this a good fit for them? Do they like the campus? You know, will they get a good education? So it would have been something we'd been talking about for quite some time… Since 2016, our primary focus has moved over into the campus community directly across from the university. That's where there's over 20,000 students that live in a neighborhood called West Campus."
Homeless encampments are another concern, she said. A cocktail of problems, including addiction, mental health crises and people who need other forms of help to improve their situation have culminated into the crisis.
"Under that umbrella of homelessness is a portion of that population that are criminal transients that prey upon the homeless and other individuals," McNew said. "Many of them have, you know, weapons, whether it's box cutters, machetes, guns. We've had issues with guns and multiple types poles, machetes. West Campus students will even name them in their little social media chats with other students…"
Repeat offenders are yet another problem, creating a "revolving door of lawlessness," she claimed.
Andy Hogue, communications director of the Travis County Republican Party, also chimed in on the crime issue.
"The radical left has found their way into city policy, and far left-leaning mayors have enacted cookie cutter policy proposals that frankly have not been tested in reality, and we're seeing the reality right now with a sharp uptick in violent crime," he said. "They keep saying Austin is one of the safest large cities, but that's a caveat because we're number eleven or number ten, and we're still up there with the danger of large cities."
Chaudhari echoed the failed policy sentiment, saying she is concerned Austin is turning into a crime haven like major California cities, specifically San Francisco.
"I would say… the code that we use 'don't California my Texas,' I think is apt… we are importing failed policies…," she said.
All hope the issue will improve with time, and are devastated by the change they have witnessed in the area. Chaudhari, for example, said she once could heave her car unlocked and no one would touch it. Now, the story is different.
McNew, disgruntled by what's happening, blasted the city's condition as "shameful."
"In Texas, you think we would do better… This is the capital of Texas. This is Austin, one of the most beloved cities in the world. And it's shameful that this is happening and that it's continuing."
Fox News Digital reached out to Austin City Council members for comment, but did not receive responses from all members.
A contact for Council Member Leslie Pool said she had no comment.
Council Member Mackenzie Kelly sent the following statement:
"Without strong support for law enforcement in Austin, we are witnessing the consequences unfold before our eyes. The decision to defund the Austin Police Department (APD) has had a noticeable impact on the safety and well-being of the city’s residents. Austin has inadvertently created an environment where criminal activity can flourish, and unfortunately, residents are having to deal with the reality of feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods.
"It is crucial for Austin residents to acknowledge these effects and consider the long-term consequences of defunding the police, and while it is important to address any concerns with APD, a balanced approach that supports the police department can lead to a safer and more secure community for all. I’m proud to support public safety and would like to remind everyone that elections matter because they give citizens the power to shape our community."
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