In response to increasing violence along North Avenue in Austin, including at least one recent murder and several shootings, plus demands from businesses and residents for police to clear gang members and drug dealers from the commercial strip, 25th District Commander Kevin B. Navarro has designated the 5400 & 5500 blocks of North Avenue as a High Threat Level Gang Conflict Area.
This empowers officers to disperse individuals who are loitering and engaging in narcotics sales or are criminal street gang members. If the offenders are in possession of illegal drugs or weapons, of course, they will be arrested. But, the high-crime designation also allows police to stop and arrest lookouts and hawkers for the drug dealers. If people return to North Avenue after being dispersed by police, they are subject to arrest if they fail to obey the police order promptly or return within sight or hearing of the location where the order was issued and engage in further gang loitering within 12 hours.
Commander Navarro announced that he has assigned additional patrol officers to the North Avenue Corridor emphasizing enforcement to set the tone for the coming summer season. Police are issuing citations for lesser offenses and expanding enforcement to arrests when the same subjects are observed repeating the offenses.
Police are focusing specifically on gang gathering sites at Leamington & North Avenues, the gas station and McDonald’s at Laramie & North, the 5400 & 5500 blocks of North Avenue, and North Avenue from Mayfield to Austin Boulevard.
In addition, vice officers are conducting license investigations of problem businesses along North Avenue. Cases of violators are currently pending in court. Commander Navarro says the goal is to ensure compliance and make sure that businesses operate responsibly.
“We want businesses in the district,” Navarro says, “but responsible ones. My goal is to see a noticeable difference on North Avenue, so that the neighborhood residents and businesses can return a great avenue to what it should be.”