Drug Bust’s Effects Could Spread
By Era Sundar
Last week authorities arrested 18 people in connection with a heroin trafficking ring in Austin. It took more than a year and several government agencies to do it, but law enforcement finally pried the lid off the Texas Syndicate’s local heroin operation.
Gary Albus, regional commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety, says the arrests have gone a long way in making Austin safer.
“We believe that the TS gang is a tier-one gang,” Albus said. “It’s one of the most violent ones in the state. They’re well known in the prison system. They also operate in the free world.”
But Filip Wiecko, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at Texas A&M-Commerce, says that temporarily interrupting a big drug operation doesn’t necessarily create more peaceful streets.
“My guess would be that if you have somebody like these 15 or 16 people that got busted in Austin, you’ve probably taken out somebody at the mid-level, meaning you didn’t cut the head off the snake,” Wiecko said. “The snake’s just fine; you’ve got the tail end.”
Wiecko says researchers measure the amount of damage done to drug dealing organizations by the behavior of their customers.
“You’re going to start seeing shortages, you’re going to start seeing people going through withdrawals, you’ll start seeing people being admitted to emergency rooms with various other problems — overdoses, taking bad drugs, going into desperate behavior,” he said. “So that’s kind of one way to look and see how much of the market has been disrupted.”
He says it takes about a month after the bust to start seeing those signs.
The Austin Police Department’s Donald Baker says the drug problem in Austin will get worse before it gets better.
“We know that Austin is becoming more of a hub for the narcotics that are coming across the border,” Baker said. “That’s what’s important about this partnership.”