Several arrested in Riverside Drive area tunnel police call “criminal comfort zone”

Julian Reyes was just getting off of work Monday when he passed by the Willow Creek Tunnel just off Riverside Drive.

“I saw three police cars here, then a fourth and fifth one showed up I believe,” said Reyes, who works for The Challenger Street Newspaper.

Austin police were arresting seven people for criminal trespass.

“The paddy wagon showed up toward the end and arrested several people of color who had no place to go,” said Reyes.

The tunnel is used by the city for water runoff and flood control, but police say it's often occupied by drug dealers, users, and prostitutes. The Austin Police Department said they gave warnings and ample time before arresting seven people.

To Reyes, the arrests were unnecessary.

“We're putting these people in jail for who knows how long because they don't have access to the law, and that's cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

David Montoya, who grew up in the Riverside neighborhood, believes enforcement is what's needed.

“You have to get it under control otherwise you are going to have people on drugs doing crimes and not being accountable,” he said.

He feels Gov. Greg Abbott's firm request for the city to take action was justified.

“It's bad enough that the city doesn't pick up after them as often and to let them just do what they want to is just not a good situation. It's just not fair to the business people and it's not fair to the citizens when they see all this trash and crime going on,” said Montoya. 

Many will agree on wanting cleaner streets and help for the homeless, but how to go about it...might be the question that lingers for quite some time.

“These are our neighbors. We are all neighbors, we are all citizens, we are all human beings, and what's done to one of us, is done to all of us,” said Reyes.