Wells Branch law enforcement push uncovers prostitution operations, credit card skimmers

Citizens pack into a meeting discussing the results of the Wells Branch Initiative. KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.
Citizens pack into a meeting discussing the results of the Wells Branch Initiative. KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following a six-week, multi-agency initiative to track and curb crime in the Wells Branch area, law enforcement say the rates of some serious crimes are declining.

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office,  Williamson County law enforcement, Pflugerville Police, Austin Police and the Department of Public Safety all collaborated in this effort and presented the results of their initiative at a packed community meeting Monday.

Thomas Yusran who lives in Wells Branch said he joined a community watch group a year ago, but hasn’t been very involved since. After hearing about this initiative, he thinks it’s time to get more involved again.

“The prostitution —  we didn’t have that here before but now it seems to be the case,” Yusran said. “And also the credit card skimmers, yeah that gives me the goosebumps!”

In all during that time period between Oct. 8 until Nov. 17, officials issued 2,184 citations, scanned 7,661 license plates, issued three search warrants and made 167 arrests (123 of those were misdemeanors and 32 were felonies).

Law enforcement studied and targeted many crimes, from credit card skimmers, to auto thefts, to narcotics sales. It received tips about prostitution in the area and uncovered several operations.

Statistics from TCSO show after this initiative, crimes like assault and burglary of vehicles decreased.

“The number of crimes has slowly started to decrease, and we want to continue that, we don’t want the numbers to spike back up, just because this initiative is over,” Smith said.

Over that time, law enforcement also made two arrests for people involved with mail theft. Since then, TCSO detectives have noticed a significant decrease in mail-theft-related crimes.

The initiative started after the Wells Branch neighborhood was flagged as a “hot spot” for local crime, explained Captain Craig Smith with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. He clarified this does not mean Wells Branch is unsafe.

“What we noticed is as the population has grown in this area, we’ve seen the crime statistics have increased,” Smith explained. “And it’s kind of across the board, it’s not that we’re seeing anything in particular that’s necessarily alarming, but we’ve just seen an increase on all types of crime.”

The area is unique because it borders of Austin, Pflugerville, Travis County and Williamson County.

The next step of this initiative will be working with the community to promote safety in the long term, Smith said. He hopes that people who live in Wells Branch will help officers by calling 9-1-1 when something doesn’t seem right, locking their car doors and joining neighborhood watch groups.

“I can drive down your street in the middle of the night, and things may not stand out to me as being unusual,” he noted. “But when you drive down your street, things stand out to you without you having to look for them.”

TCSO added that they expect to see an increase in crime around the holidays as they do each year, they hope that public vigilance helps them to curb this seasonal trend.

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