Pubdate: Wed, 07 Aug 2002
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Austin American-Statesman


Residents of a North Austin neighborhood are good examples of people 
unwilling to surrender their neighborhood to prostitutes or drug dealers. 
Nor are they willing to become what's known euphemistically as a 
"neighborhood in transition."

Here's hoping that they get action and not the pop sociology for which 
there is strong affection in Austin. So far, the signs are good. At a rally 
over the weekend, the neighbors heard from District Attorney Ronnie Earle 
and Mayor Gus Garcia, both promising support. Also present was Police Chief 
Stan Knee.

The neighbors are fighting to call attention to the undesirable changes 
that threaten their neighborhood. They are resisting becoming another urban 
statistic. They are demanding action.

So far, the organizers have been effective in getting the attention of 
police administrators and politicians. The proof in the pudding will be 
what kind of action is taken to correct the situation that caused the 
community outrage in the first place. Residents in the Rundberg Lane area 
see drug dealers and prostitutes becoming common sights in their 
once-middle-class neighborhood. Rather than accept that negative change, 
they want to reverse it.

The message the neighbors deliver is a simple one: "We deserve safe streets."

So do we all.

Earle has used stay-away orders that prohibit people arrested or convicted 
on drug or prostitution charges from returning to the sites where they were 
apprehended and delivered a message to those attending a weekend rally:

"If you persist in making people miserable, we will put you in jail," Earle 

Tough words, but hollow ones if not accompanied by a coordinated law 
enforcement effort to discourage drug dealing, prostitution and other 
illegal activity in neighborhoods. The experience of the Rundberg neighbors 
is shared by residents of Gaston Place, a Northeast Austin housing project 
plagued by prostitution and drug dealing.

After the rallies and speeches, city officials must make a sustained 
commitment to strong law enforcement presence in the troubled neighborhoods 
and prosecutors must do their jobs aggressively. There is room in this 
discussion, for long-term approaches to the root causes of crime, of 
course. But for now, what's needed is a strong law enforcement presence to 
keep the drug dealers at bay.

Austin City Council members are beginning budget discussions and have the 
opportunity to focus tightly on delivering safe streets.
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