Senior citizens living along a three-block section of Cicero Avenue are fed up with aggressive panhandlers and drug activity in that area and want the police and alderman to do more to stop it.
The elders want more police patrols along Cicero between Madison and Adams, where they say the aggressive panhandling occurs. One concerned elder, who declined to give her name, told Austin Weekly News about the activity. She described the “threatening manner” in which both men and some women near bus stops along Cicero ask the seniors for change.
The elder recalled one female panhandler verbally threatening to do harm to another senior who refused to give up money.
“It’s bad the way they are demanding money from us. It’s not right for us to have to deal with this,” she said, adding that people cannot even empty their trash because the panhandlers and drug addicts urinate in the alleys.
Most elders, she said, often walk in the street to avoid groups of men standing on street corners who refuse to move. She said she has lived in the neighborhood since 1966 and “it didn’t used to be this nasty.”
She adds that she doesn’t mind donating money to the homeless, but warned: “They can’t demand my money like that, you little punks.” She noted that the men loiter by a liquor store near Monroe and Cicero.
Both the 15th and 11th police districts patrol that stretch of Cicero Avenue. Calls to each of the district commanders, as well as each community policing office, were not immediately returned to Austin Weekly News.
The elder says she and other residents have called the 15th District police and Ald. Jason Ervin’s office about the matter. They’ve also called the mayor’s office, she said, hoping to get something done about the loitering. But the elder claims little has been done.
A patrol car does sit on the corner near a church that houses a daycare, but the elder said the panhandlers know the police’s routine. And as soon as the police leave, they are back on the corner, the elder said. The residents, she adds, want more patrols on the streets and not just sitting on one corner.
But according to Ervin’s office, they’ve only received one call about aggressive panhandling and loitering in that area. In an email to Austin Weekly News, Ervin says he’s working closely with 15th Dist. Commander Barbara West to address loitering, drugs and panhandling along Cicero Avenue from Madison and Congress.
“The police response has been very good and well-documented in arrests, and visible presence,” according to Ervin, who added that service will “continue and adapt to circumstances in response to residents calling my office and 9-1-1.”
His office also conducts a bi-weekly survey of the ward to determine what city services are needed. Illegal dumping, potholes and open vacant buildings are among the other issues his office is combating, according to the alderman.
“The residents of the 28th Ward deserve proper service, and I will continue to provide that to them,” Ervin said.