The dirty drag and how police plan to clean it up

The drag along the UT campus has drastically changed in a matter of months. Where businesses once operated for decades, you'll now find empty store fronts covered with graffiti. Police say the appearance is inviting crime.

Take a walk down the drag and you'll see graffiti on empty store fronts. We also found drug paraphernalia.

"It's a bit dirtier. The streets are a little bit dirtier," said student Nghi Nguyen.

Urban Outfitters is in the process of obtaining permits to fix up the place as it expands its space.

At the same time Jack in the Box is also closed. You can see where graffiti has recently been removed from the windows there.

The look is much different from March when we interviewed one of the tenants whose lease was not renewed so the expansion could occur.

"Things like that are not conducive to creating an appearance of a nice neighborhood so that's important for us to address," said UTPD Chief David Carter.

UTPD Chief David Carter calls it the broken windows theory. If it looks bad, it attracts crime.

UTPD and Austin police both report an increase in disorderly conduct such as fights and harassment.

Last Wednesday we got video of UT police arresting a man who they identified as 50-year-old Gary Reilly.  
A UT staff member flagged an officer down to report that Reilly was pointing a folding knife at pedestrians and yelling for them to "shut up" and "go away."

Carter says groups who assist the homeless population along the drag report a dramatic increase.

"The usual population of homeless youth that may be hanging around in the area is around 60, this year they're estimating it's doubled to 120," said Carter.

We spoke to a homeless person named Justin. He says his friends don't want to go to the arch partly because he says police are too harsh.

"People don't want tickets on their records. People don't want to go to jail," said Justin.

He has noticed an increase in litter, but he says he picks up after himself. Justin says he feels people are doing graffiti as a way of rebelling against officers who are trying to force them out.

UTPD is increasing its walking beat. Austin police will increase patrols beginning next week.

The departments met with city leaders on Tuesday for the specific purpose of addressing student safety. They will come up with initiatives which they will carry out in the upcoming weeks.

Carter told us about one of his plans. He says a UTPD crime prevention officer will team up with an APD officer to address environmental concerns.

"We're going to do everything in our power to address the issues," said Carter.

APD has asked to the community service squad to clean up the trash. Those are people who must serve a certain amount of community service hours as part of their punishment for tickets. Thursday morning the city power washed the alley behind the drag.

Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services is aware of the graffiti and plans to get that cleaned up soon.

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