AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police say officers are putting a dent in the K2 crisis in downtown Austin.
This week, the Organized Crime Division issued 24 felony warrants for 19 suspects for possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute K2. An APD spokesperson said it’s the result of the department’s “continual maintenance” to address the K2 issue affecting downtown Austin.
The suspected dealers are facing 2nd degree felonies, and thousands of dollars in fines after APD confiscated hundreds of doses of K2 with the help of live HALO cameras around the ARCH, the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.
It has become Austin’s K2 epicenter over the past couple of years, and the place paramedics with Austin-Travis County EMS have been called more than 5,700 times times to treat patients believed to be high on the drug.
Austin police say there has been a drop in drug activity around the ARCH since their increased patrols and “pressure” they are putting on the dealers.
Making a K2 arrest takes a lot of time compared to other street drugs. Travis County drug prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez tells KXAN there are field tests officers can run on the spot when they find drugs like cocaine, but when officers find what they believe to be K2 it has to be sent off to a lab, or several labs, to identify all of the chemicals before an arrest is made.
Gonzalez says the results can take months. If the test comes back positive then officers have to go track down the suspect, which can be tough when the majority are homeless.
Zac Hackett, a musician in town from New Brunswick, Canada, playing one block away from the ARCH, said it’s also a problem in his hometown.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Hackett. “In my opinion if you’re poisoning people, you’re going to get locked up.”
But in many cases, as soon as a suspect bonds out, Gonzalez says they’re back in the same spot selling it again.
APD says they are utilizing extra patrol officers in the downtown area to combat the K2 epidemic.