Crime drops dramatically in East Austin, festival highlights progress

We Are East mural in east Austin. (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)
We Are East mural in east Austin. (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As more and more people move to Austin, we’ve seen many changes to historic neighborhoods, one of them being East Austin.

For many, the area of 12th and Chicon Streets looks totally different than what it was less than a decade ago. In the early years, the area was a thriving business corridor but the area became overrun with drugs and prostitution during the ’90s and continued to stay that way until recently. In 2011, there were more than 1,000 reported crimes within 1,000 feet of the intersection of the infamous 12th and Chicon. So far this year, there have been 144 reported crimes.

Many long-time residents say while they’re happy to see the changes, they don’t want the community to forget what East Austin was and how it’s changed.

“People of color existed on this side of 35, in this pocket of the city, was very much by design… it was a result of segregation,” says Natasha Madison, longtime East Austin resident and community ambassador for Urban Co-Lab, a space for growing entrepreneurs.

She says East Austin is rich in history. “I grew up in this area, we went to Givens Park every Sunday. We went to Sam’s Barbeque with my mother.”

Many of the original families living in the area no longer call this area home.

“We all know that the black population in East Austin is dwindling and a lot of the people who would otherwise be residents of East Austin are now residents of Manor or Pflugerville, Round Rock, Kyle, Buda,” Madison says.

While the community has changed, there’s now a push to rediscover East 12th Street.

“So rediscovering in a sense has to do with how many of us, of “us” meaning people who are familiar with this area in a way that’s very personal, how many of us can we get together to come back and get together like the old days,” says Madison.

A festival will celebrate the old while embracing the new.

“I’m proud to be from this area, and maybe as importantly, I’m very proud to be a part of developing the future of this area and making sure that the future of this area acknowledges and fully embraces the past.”

The Return and Discover East Austin Festival runs from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 12th and Chicon. There will be food, crafts and fun for the whole family.

Return and Discover East 12th Street Festival
Return and Discover East 12th Street Festival in East Austin (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)

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