By Jarrid Denman and Dylan Baddour
The intersection at 12th and Chicon Streets has been known for being an open market for drugs, violence and prostitution for decades. In 2012, APD initiated the Drug Market Intervention program, which sought to put a definite end to the crime that disturbed the community for so long.
DMI is an initiative that was first successfully executed in Highpoint, North Carolina. The primary goal of the DMI is to identify drug dealers. What is unique about this program, however, is that it offers some offenders a second chance to end their criminal behavior rather than end up in jail and with records.
The program categorizes those arrested, placing them on either the “A-list” or “B-list.” Those who make the A-list are violent criminals who are prosecuted without being given a second chance.
Although Austin police have combated crime in this area for years, no initiative to date has proven as successful as the DMI, according to APD’s Sergeant James Dixon.
“Before DMI there were undercover operations, high profile operations, [and] they all worked but we never addressed the root cause of the problem and it somehow migrated back to the area,” Dixon said. “We found out that initiating the DMI identified the root cause — The root cause was the sellers of the narcotics.”
The whole idea is to identify those who perpetuate drug use. Once the drug providers are identified and given a second chance, they know that they risk being convicted if caught on the street again. For those that receive a second chance, APD encourages them to discuss their involvement and seek rehab, or face jail time.
“We have a support group available for them at that point,” Dixon said. “We have ministers, we have police officers, we have Goodwill, and family members to get them not to reoffend.”
The program has been a success thus far, with only 17% of people who reoffend.
“Things have changed drastically on 12th and Chicon,” Dixon said. “If you go down there yourself you don’t see a lot of people hanging out. They know out there that 12th and Chicon is really not the place to be at this point.”
Crime is not the only occurrence with widespread effects. Gentrification has also taken its toll on the East Austin community.
With dwindling crime rates, East Austin has been primed for development. The area has become more attractive to potential residents and businesses, and property values have gone up as a result.
As a whole, general inflation in Austin has increased nearly 35 percent, median home costs have gone up 40 percent, and rent by 50 percent. Yet, the average household income has only gone up 25 percent since 2001.
Founded in 2000, Chestnut Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation is a nonprofit organization that focuses on community and economic development. According Sean Garretson, economic developer for CNRC, the organization has completed single unit homes and multiple-unit housing projects.
“A lot of it has been about this issue of gentrification,” Garretson said. “If you look at the sheer numbers and the share of population in East Austin of African Americans, it’s dwindled significantly.”
The Chicon Corridor Development is the CNRC’s next project and includes four buildings located on 13th and 14th streets. Each building will have 3,000 square feet of commercial space on the bottom level, and two levels of residential units comprised of approximately 15 units. Of the 43 units, 33 of them will be affordable housing, and the remaining ten will be market rate units, which alleviates the loss of profit due to building affordable homes.
Construction is said to begin in two months, and residents can expect to move in by Spring 2016.
Although the CNRC conducted a market study to clarify target demographics, they plan on marketing to East Austin residents who are most in need of affordable housing. The corporation determined that those who are ages 25-40, and 50-65 will benefit the most from more affordable housing in East Austin.
“When we made a decision about a year and a half ago we were trying to figure out what to do next,” Garretson said, “and I was like guys if we’re gonna have an impact anywhere in East Austin, 12th and Chicon, that’s where we gotta be!”