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East Austin business cleans up after drug offenders

An East Austin business is having to make accommodations for an ongoing drug offender problem.

Terri Armstrong, general manager of Texas Coffee Traders, says in the past year they've installed an automatic gate outside the facility on E. 4th St.

She said they've had to install a swinging gate to keep employees from being harassed. She said they regularly have to sweep needles and defecation from people sleeping outside the facility. Lights and 'no trespassing' signs have been added as well.

Krimelabb, an Austin crime date website, shows 55 possession of a controlled substance offenses in the past three months for the 78702 zip code, 15 so far for January.

Two of them came on Tuesday when two people were arrested behind Texas Coffee Traders with what Austin police documents say were crack pipes. Both were repeat offenders, charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Near the CapMetro stop between Fourth and Fifth streets, small business owner Katie Friedman has sold women's clothes in the same spot for the past decade. She said over the summer, a man wanting in from the heat wasn't bashful about his drug use.

"He pulled out a pipe and was like, 'can I hit this?' and I was like 'no! This is a business," laughed Friedman.

While she was able to laugh about it, a similar instance happened again in her store on Thursday that ended in her calling Austin police. She said a man who appeared to be under the influence of drugs tried to steal something from her store. With the help of neighboring businesses he left as she was on the phone with police.

"It's really nerve wracking, I'm a woman. I'm in a business alone," said Friedman.

A stone's throw from her front door, Ben Miller of East Side Pedal Pushers echoed was the founder of Krimelabb said about crime in East Austin -- Drugs have always been there, gentrification has lead to more enforcement.

"People are starting to notice (drug use) and be bothered by it," said Miller.

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