Neighbors say criminals targeting city-owned Onion Creek homes

People in the Onion Creek neighborhood said vacant homes bought out by the city are attracting looters to the area.

Austin police said they have stepped up patrols because of those reports.

Deedee Carter's home survived the 2013 Halloween Floods when Onion Creek overflowed its banks.

"Someone told us we probably have post-traumatic stress," said Carter.

She waited patiently for help to move out of the danger zone, even though it meant leaving the home she has lived in for 12 years.

"I went to the City Council meetings and the last one said, 'We are going to buy all the houses in the 100 year flood zone,' and then my house got taken off of that. They told us we were in an upgraded 100 year flood zone," said Carter.

Carter said she watched as one-by-one her friends moved out of the neighborhood and crime moved in.

"We've seen scavengers, people coming through with their trucks and taking things out of their houses, out of their yards," said Carter.

Austin police said they haven't caught anyone inside the city-bought homes, but have had several calls reporting theft and trespassing.

"We have amped up patrol in the area, we've done random checkouts of the homes and we just continue to have constant contact with Watershed and contractors in the area," said Austin Police Officer Rose Perez who patrols the Onion Creek area.

The Austin Public Works Department said demolition crews have witnessed someone stripping copper from at least two of the empty houses. They said they are moving as quickly as they can, but once the city finalizes a home purchase it takes about two months to inspect and demolish it. In the meantime the empty homes are boarded up.

"They've spray-painted the houses with big ugly 'demo' signs across it and the yards are all trashed and we have to drive through this every day," said Carter.

When weather moves into the area, crews sometimes have to put the project on hold. They said leaving it partially demolished does not pose any threat, but neighbors aren't convinced.

"It's been sitting like that for three days now and I don't feel like that's safe. The roof looks like it's going to cave in at any moment," said Carter.

She said if she has to stay in one of only homes left on the block, she just hopes the distant memory of a peaceful neighborhood will be a reality someday soon.

"Don't make us live with this daily, every day for another year, get it done. Let us have our lives back. If you're going to leave us here let us have our lives back," said Carter.

Councilwoman Delia Garza who represents the Onion Creek area has held meetings with neighbors about concerns regarding the buyouts. People in the area hope she will address some of those issues.

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