AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a recent spike in overdoses tied to drugs laced with fentanyl and with South by Southwest in full swing, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Austin Police Department are looking to “disrupt” illegal narcotics sales as well as violent crime in downtown Austin.
As KXAN reported, authorities reported three overdose deaths and at least a dozen hospitalizations during a recent 48-hour period.
According to a trio of drug arrest affidavits filed over the last few days, a joint operation is currently underway to combat the growing problem. The documents state the operation was approved by Asst. Dist. Attorney Efrain De La Fuente.
The arrests happened Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12, within the downtown entertainment district, in the areas near East Eighth and Seventh Streets and the Interstate 35 underpass.
According to the court documents, on Friday, officers in plainclothes witnessed several people approaching an SUV parked in the 500 block of East Seventh Street.
Police arrested the 25-year-old woman behind the wheel after officers said methamphetamine and cocaine were found in the vehicle.
Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, a 26-year-old man was taken into custody after officers observed unusual behavior at a gas station near I-35 and East Seventh Street. Investigators said 12 crack cocaine rocks were discovered in the man’s vehicle when police pulled him over.
Earlier on Saturday, around 2 p.m., police pulled over and arrested another driver, a 26-year-old woman, after a man was seen removing a bag from her vehicle. Officers said the woman was spotted cutting through a parking lot to avoid a stoplight. A further search of the car turned up a prescription pill bottle containing ecstasy, the document alleged.
According to the affidavits, the APD operation is in conjunction with the Texas Department of Public Safety and DEA and FBI partners.
All agencies involved declined to comment Tuesday citing the ongoing investigations.
Austin criminal defense attorney Logan Campbell told KXAN his practice has seen an uptick in clients charged with drug-related offenses over the last weeks.
Campbell likened the current operation to the law enforcement response that included dozens of arrests several years ago as police took on the synthetic marijuana K2.
“I don’t know if K2 has necessarily been eradicated in Austin, but as far as our law firm goes, we don’t have any pending K2 cases.”
Campbell added because fentanyl is often deadly, many cases that would typically make their way through state courts are instead being picked up by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, meaning harsher penalties for offenders.
Near the I-35 underpass Tuesday afternoon, former Austinite Katy Hart, now visiting with friends, said she would like to see the current crackdown last beyond SXSW.
“I would hope that it sticks,” she said. “But that’s to be seen.”