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Tue Sep 24, 2013, 01:10 PM


Austin's "Drug Market Intervention" project shows notable success.



The area around East Austin's Chicon and 12th Streets has for some time been the scene of an open-air drug & prostitution market. And for a long time the neighbors here have complained about policing policies which have failed to clear the area of the market and its attendant crime. But after one year of the Drug Market Intervention project, the market is shut down.

What is different? Instead of the ocassional sweep that toned down the market, only to have it reassert itself, the Austin Police Department has set up a coordinated intervention program which classifies offenders into two groups: A Group and B Group. The A Group offenders are repeats with a "violent streak." When they are arrested, the book is thrown at them. In the year from August, 2012 to August 2013, nearly a dozen A Group members have been arrested; 8 are in prison, one is on probation, another received civil commitment, and the other cases are pending.

But it's the B Group people which are treated differently. These low-level offenders, "endlessly replaceable" users who burgle and prostitute to support habits, are surveilled by APD, and cases are made against them. But instead of filing charges, they are given a choice: Take advantage of housing, counseling, education and employment programs, and have charges "disappear," or got to prison if they are caught again. Over the year 30 B Group folks have been given this choice, and only 3 have been re-arrested.

The neighborhood is quiet, now, and both the people living their and the police department aim to keep it that way. In fact, the number of anonymous tips ("snitching" in some crime-ridden cultures) is increasing due to mutual trust between police and citizens. Recently, a man was described, his car identified and whereabouts reported to police by a neighbor. He turned out to be a dealer. Within four hours he was arrested.

My comments:

Some problems remain. The effort ultimately is in response to a miss-begotten War on Drugs which has contributed to conditions of criminality. Neighbors are still suspicious as to how long the improvements will last, and some other residents beyond the immediate impact zone of the project complain about the proliferation of cameras. And while drug and prostitution crime has dropped from 79 to just over 30 in the year of the DMI project, violent crime has shown a very modest drop, and property crime has plateaued during that time. And there is the the hydraulic nature of crime; push it out of one area, and it tends to crop up elsewhere. But both police and neighbors are hoping the relationships and trust which have been built up will persist well after the neighborhood has been won back from criminal activity. And the market remains shut down.

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Reply Austin's "Drug Market Intervention" project shows notable success. (Original post)
Eleanors38 Sep 2013 OP
Comrade Grumpy Sep 2013 #1
Eleanors38 Sep 2013 #2

Response to Eleanors38 (Original post)

Tue Sep 24, 2013, 01:20 PM

1. Well, that is smarter policing. Of course, it is 12th and Chicon.


Those poor people of color need to carry on their drug trade indoors, like the nice folks in Westlake Hills do.

I haven't lived in Austin for 20 years, but 12th and Chicon was happening (and had been happening) way back then, too.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #1)

Tue Sep 24, 2013, 02:11 PM

2. Many of the "people of color" do carry on their drug trade indoors, esp. in the older...


generation motels along I-35 in North Austin.

There is a considerable influx of new folks (called "gentryfication" by some) who have teamed up with the older residents in this neighborhood. Integration can be of help in many unexpected ways.

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