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Crimewatch: Police Go Undercover


A huge jump in one type of violent crime has the Austin Police department taking action. Police say an 87% increase in robberies of individuals prompted a three month plan aimed at cleaning up crime hot spots.

One night saw drug dealers selling to undercover officers. Two men were handcuffed and arrested. A search of a nearby car turns up a loaded gun.

Undercover officers said one of the suspects ditched that weapon when the take down team arrived.

Wearing protective gloves, an officer unloaded the gun, removing the magazine and the bullet still in the chamber.

Police said the two men are drug dealers. One is even a documented gang member.

The dog that bit an officer on a previous foot pursuit was there as well.

These arrests were the result of undercover buy bust operations.

FOX 7 is not using the real name of undercover officers.

Officer "Cleatis" said, "We're out trying to purchase narcotics in and around the central area. Then we bust the projected sellers and the go betweens."

Police are targeting drug dealers and prostitutes in an effort to clean up areas that have seen an increase in violent crimes. Investigators say drugs are behind that spike.

They also say, many times, drugs are behind property crimes as well.

“People are breaking into houses, breaking into cars, selling the merchandise they steal and going out and buying narcotics with it,” Cleatis said. “Prostitutes who are addicted to the crack cocaine or other drugs are prostituting themselves out for drugs."

“By attacking the drugs and prostitution, we get at the robberies, burglaries, and thefts that are occuring in the neighborhood,” Sgt. Robert Jones said.

For the Central Bureau, which includes parts of Central, East, South, and North Austin, police say robberies of individuals jumped 87% in April. That is compared to the previous four weeks.

It is why police came up with a 90 day plan to attack crime hot spots.

“It puts a larger area on notice, that we're out in force and that we're doing these operations so even if we didn't catch you doing it this night, you've got the fear that we're going to be around the corner the next time you do something," Sgt. Jones said.

Police say finding drug dealers, users, and prostitutes on the streets of Austin is not hard.

“It's amazing just driving around picking up prostitutes because the people you don't think are prostitutes are actually prostitutes and the drug dealers and the go betweens, there are so many of them it's almost like shooting fish in a barrel of fish out here,” Officer Cleatis said.

They also say for the most part, crack cocaine is still the drug of choice. An undercover officer says, "we see a lot of crack cocaine, we see a lot of powder. but we do see heroine sometimes, "marijuana is also a main drug."

After one bust, an officer weighs the drug on the spot. He also scrapes a little piece off the rock, mixes it with a solution. They tested the drug to make sure it is the real thing.

Police say these operations are effective to a certain point.

"We arrested a guy that just got out of jail for delivery and again he delivered to an undercover officer tonight. It's not uncommon for them to be out in a day or two days back to selling drugs."

Besides buy busts, police are conducting high-profile operations where officers saturate an area with patrol cars, bikes, and ATV's.

They are also doing spotter operations. From high up, officers spot crimes and call them out. Police typically conduct these ops between 6pm to 4am, the time period violent crimes happen.

The hot spots police hit are the following:

6th and Brushy
2nd and Cholmers
12th and Chicon
12th and Harvey
Mason Manor
Manor and Groggy area
Manor and Northeast area
St John's area
I-35 and Rundberg area
the Lamar corridor from Rundberg to Powell
Powell and Sam Rayburn

From January until April 22nd of last year, police say there were 459 violent crimes. Coincidentally, there were the same number of violent crimes in the same time period this year.

Police say it is difficult to catch someone in the act of a robbery or burglary. But they also say those are the same people selling drugs and catching them is a whole lot easier.

In a three week period, these operations have yielded 37 felonies, and 63 misdemeanors.

Follow Jenni on Twitter@jennileefox7.

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