Austin, Hipstercrite Life

Memorial Day Crime Spree

“This is how people become alcoholics,” I said to my boyfriend as he handed me a bottle of the only liquor he had in the house. The liquor I so hastily requested as we sat listening to the helicopters circling our neighborhood. Even though it tasted like cough syrup that had been sitting in someone’s medicine chest for decades and had begun the fermentation process, I couldn’t drink what was left of that Barcardi Razz fast enough. It was 3AM and I needed to drown out all the thoughts of whatever manhunt was currently going down on the eastside, the reports of gunshots downtown, and the fact that once again my car was broken into less than 24 hours prior.

I can’t find any data that confirms this, but I feel that Memorial Day is a day particularly saved for criminal activity. It’s the gateway into the summer- the time when temperatures rise and so does crime. Evil-doers are giving us just a little taste of what’s to come. Sticky and sweaty lawlessness.

Some of you know, my car had already been broken into. The window was smashed and replaced with a cardboard cut-out of The Muppets. The thief didn’t put in the Muppet window, though it was the least he could do, but my very sweet future boyfriend did. This happened back in March and unfortunately I have not had the money to replace cardboard with a luxury like glass. This is proving very inopportune in the looming Texas summer heat. I often have to take the cardboard down while driving out of fear that it will slowly peel away from the duct tape and fly onto someone’s front window. Though I’m sure a startled driver would be pleasantly pleased to see some Muppets fly onto their car, it could impair their vision and make them lurch off the road. I don’t want that sort of responsibility on my hands.

My boyfriend lives in literally the text book example of what gentrification is. From block to block in East Austin you have $300,000 house next to a shack next to a $500,000 house next to crack den. He is blocks from one of the scariest intersections in the city, but also next to some of the most unique and interesting architecture sprouting up. Because of this, crimes such as car theft and home burglary are not uncommon.  People climbing into your car in your driveway and eating pork rinds and drinking Lone Star is not that uncommon either, I found out.

You never forget the moment you realize your car has been broken into. You look down to see that things have moved around in your car. Items are thrown this way and that or just simply don’t exist in your life anymore. It’s a chilling feeling. A feeling of violation. At that moment when you’re looking down into your car you feel that at any moment someone could run up and completely blindside you. This is a feeling that I felt only two months prior, but is still unnerving nonetheless. After my initial digestion of what happened to my car, I realized that the mo-fo’s had an f’ing party in my car. Crumbs and beer caps were strewn everywhere. Once that thought digested and I scrutinized any new stains on my seats, I contemplated, “What else did they do in my car?” Then after that I thought, “Oh no! I touched my car!” Then, “Dear God! AIDs!” After that moment I ran back into the house and scrubbed my hands as hard as I could. The rest of day I used my elbows to tend to any itch near my eyes or mouth.

This ended up being a semi-kill joy for the Memorial holiday, but I hunkered on. My boyfriend being a stalwart of support for the rest of the day. Just as the day was winding down and I was beginning to feel comfortable, we spotted silent police cars racing through the neighborhood. Then the familiar rumble of the police helicopter. I jumped online to find news updates to no avail. I turned to trusty ol’ Twitter where residents were reporting that sounds of gunfire near the freeway that separates downtown from East Austin were heard. Eastsiders were tweeting that road blocks had been set up around many popular streets. Tension was rising as it became apparent something bad was going down. My boyfriend and I located an online scanner for the Austin Police Department that came in garbled. Occasionally a word like, “weapon” and “shot” could be distinctly heard but we were mostly left in the dark about what was going on. I tried laying down but mostly sat there paralyzed by fear. Then began shaking and whining like a small animal. Listening to a police scanner is the worst decision anyone could ever make. It makes you believe that your city is a lawless dystopia infested with murderers, rapists, and most likely a couple of Frank Booths. While all this was going down, other local officers reported in robberies, shootings, and threats all over the city.

This morning news surfaced that two young men were breaking into cars on 8th street and I-35. When two bike cops discovered what they were doing, the perpetrators tried running them over and then fled. A shoot-out ensued and one suspect was killed while the other fled eastside on foot with a gunshot wound to the arm. Police apprehended the second suspect at UT’s Disch Falk Stadium.

I’ve written about how recently I’ve been very anxious at night. Some in part because of the recent crimes occurring in my neighborhood. This week I finally overcame my anxiety. Having slept through the night in full with no 3AM panic attacks. I was a big girl! YESTERDAY UNDID EVERYTHING I WAS WORKING SO HARD TOWARDS. NOW I’LL BE A BIG PUDDLE OF GOOOO AND HAVE TO REACH FOR A BOTTLE OF POORLY FLAVORED LIQUOR JUST TO GET THROUGH THE EVENING.

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  • Reply smedette May 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    It was a bad Memorial Day in Charlotte, too. There was a near riot downtown, resulting in something like 70 arrests, gunshots and sadly, one person died.

    I hope you're able to find some peace of mind soon; you should feel safe and calm in your own home. xoxo

  • Reply jewel May 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Wow… that just sounds terrifying. I don't know what I would do. I sincerely hope things become safer for you.

  • Reply cj Schlottman May 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Don't make me worry, Lauren! I hate worrying, and I especially hate worrying about beautiful and talented young women who write down words in an incredible way and whose posts keep me young at heart.

    I am so sorry all of this is happening around you – just when you have a Gentleman Caller. Criminals are from a different planet, I am certain, and they should all be rounded up and sent into space on a rocket that will explode as it leaves our atmosphere

    Oh, and drinking in an emergency does not an alcoholic make. I do it all the time.

    Be safe……………..cj

  • Reply Brooke Farmer May 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Ahhhh… City life.

    I hope the booze helped you get some sleep. I know that feeling oh-so-well. Right before I left for Australia a man was chased by cops down my street and arrested against the side of my house at gunpoint. *Awesome.* Before that I saw fourteen cops surround a house guns drawn two blocks away before breaking the doors in

  • Reply Adria May 31, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    When I moved from Manhattan to LA I didn't expect that my NEW neighborhood would be the sight of a drive-by shooting at 11 pm. Well great.

    Gentrification is a killer. Sometimes literally. Maybe I should move to Beverly Hills and be the scary, broke-ass girl living in her car. At least I wouldn't get shot at there.

  • Reply Hipstercrite May 31, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    @Smedette- Weird! I guess it proves my theory that Memorial Day is just a bad day for crime! What was the riot for?

    @Jewel- Thanks. Things really aren't that bad. It's manageable. People deal with it. I've just become a big baby. 🙂

    @CJ- Aww….CJ! I like your theory. About criminals and drinking. Is it still not alcoholism if every day there is an emergency? 😉

    @Brooke- Damn, girl. You've had some f'ed up crap happen to you. How do you not have PTSD all the time?

    @Adria- What neighborhood do you live in?

  • Reply tennysoneehemingway June 1, 2011 at 12:42 am

    At least life's not boring?

  • Reply Miss Austin June 1, 2011 at 4:28 am

    I really love your blog! I just started one myself, check it:

  • Reply dsl June 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Coming from someone who lived in SOMA and the mission in San Francisco for many years, it's amazing the toll not feeling safe in your own apartment can take. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this but you need to move. In the mean time, if lease or whatever are keeping you there, you might consider picking up a "personal security alarm system". They're under $20 at almost any hardware store. You also might honestly want to consider taking some self defense classes as a way to boost your sense of security.
    Finally, you should definitely ditch the scanner and ~fix your car window~. 🙂 I had a similar string of incidence occur when I lived in Oakland and originally thought not getting my car window fixed was a better way to go so no one would break in anymore, but that stopped once I found a homeless man sleeping in my car. Fix your window and put up a nice sign saying you don't leave anything in it and you'll probably be good. My $0.02 anyway.

  • Reply Hipstercrite June 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    @Tennyson- Yes, but I wish in a less dangerous way. 😉

    @Miss Austin- Thanks for stopping by! I will check out!

    @DSL- Damn. Thank you for that. That was a wonderful comment to leave. How was living in Oakland!?

  • Reply dsl June 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Oakland was pretty sketchy too. My very first night there my car was broken into and my car stereo was stolen. I always thought of that as an appropriate introduction to the bay area. I lived there 9 mos. and there were several people shot within blocks of me in that amount of time. I swear the gas station down the road was held up every other week. It was a pretty crappy neighborhood though. I kind of fell into subletting from a friend and probably wouldn't have picked it on my own. Before I get flamed there are some nice parts of Oakland and it has some really cool destinations and shows; the part I lived in just wasn't so great.

  • Reply Tim June 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I think if you're going to gentrify you should get involved in the neighborhood watch and make the area a better place to live.
    To that end is a great way to get info on the crime in your neighborhood. I get emailed all crime within 2 miles of my address on a daily basis.
    We have a neighborhood crime watch that uses email. We call 911 on anyone that looks at all suspicious and let the cops sort it out, and we email the watch list every time we do. We also have some neighbors who've gone through APD's COP program and will go out and observe at places we pinpoint as problem areas. Alarm signs for outside your house and getting deadbolts and replacing all the screws in your door hardware with 2" or better screws is also a smart way to go.
    Reducing crime is not something that is a divisive issue in gentrifying neighborhoods. I definitely think a campaign to get signs on East 6th street to advise people to call 911 if they see someone behaving suspiciously would be a good start.

  • Reply Hipstercrite June 2, 2011 at 1:16 am

    @dsl- I think Oakland was just listed in the top ten most violent places to live.

    @Tim- Thank you so much for your helpful suggestions. They really stuck with me all day. you got me thinking and I appreciate that.

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