Drug-Market Intervention Effort Faces Some Skepticism in Austin


A new program to curb crime in central East Austin faces a tough sell in an area that has seen an array of law enforcement efforts come and go over the decades and where longtime residents say they are distrustful of authorities amid gentrification and fear of displacement, reports the Austin American-Statesman. In more than a dozen cities across the U.S., police officials and criminologists say the drug market intervention strategy pioneered by David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice — when executed correctly — has shown impressive results and can eradicate outdoor drug hubs.

A particular East Austin intersection has long been notorious for the marijuana and cocaine sales that plague its streets and alleys at all hours of the day. The trade spurs a consistent cycle of prostitution, theft, and occasional violence that in recent years has caused new and longtime neighbors to band together to demand that police and city officials address the crime in their community. Some leaders say they would rather see authorities use public safety measures already instituted in the downtown entertainment district and are wary of an initiative that has never been tried in Austin. Police officials and criminologists said the approach works no matter the city or its size because drug corners everywhere tend to have similar elements and face the same problems, such as poverty and strained relations between police and the surrounding neighborhood. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said he wants to implement the program by the end of the summer, and it could be expanded to other parts of the city if it’s effective.

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