The Riverside zip code, which borders Town Lake and runs from Congress Avenue to Ben White Boulevard, was the most crime-ridden area out of all Austin zip codes last year, totaling nearly 10,000 incidents in 2015, according to an Austin Police Department report.
Several student-only apartment complexes are located in the area, and according to APD crime analyst Danny Santos, most victims of violent crimes — which includes murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery — were college-age.
“Counting unique people that were listed as “victim” or “juvenile victim” per each event reported … the age group between 17 and 25 had the highest count,” Santos said.
APD has dedicated additional law enforcement resources such as patrols and increased vigilance of the area in recent years, and APD Sgt. Richard Ellsworth said the numbers for 2016 could be different.
“That’s one of our highest areas in which we put our efforts towards,” Ellsworth said. “There’s a lot of patrol visibility over there, so any time you have more visibility, hopefully you’re gonna have a deterrent.”
Compared to West Campus, another student living hub, Riverside had four times more rapes, almost nine times more robberies, nearly seven times more aggravated assaults and four times more burglaries in 2015. Ellsworth said he isn’t sure why Riverside has such a high crime rate.
“I think if we knew that answer, we could probably address it and stop that crime,” Ellsworth said. “We can’t definitively put anything on that, or we would resolve it ourselves.”
The demographic differences between West Campus and Riverside make it challenging to compare crime rates in each area, Ellsworth said. However, the close quarters in which students are typically housed in West Campus could possibly account for lower numbers in crimes of opportunity, a factor Ellsworth said is usually more characteristic of residential areas such as Riverside. Committing a crime out in the open where potential witnesses abound versus committing a crime in a less densely populated area could possibly explain why certain criminals would feel more comfortable in Riverside, Ellsworth said.
Crimes that characterize the West Campus area are distinct from those in Riverside and generally do not fall into the homicide, rape or burglary categories, although a commonality that connects the two neighborhoods is a high number of thefts. APD Sgt. Alfred Trejo said the frequent tenant turnover rate contributes to this issue.
“[West Campus] is very low in violent crime … that doesn’t mean violent crime doesn’t exist, it just means that it’s lower than in other parts of the city,” Trejo said. “Property crimes are usually higher than most … because you have a very transient student population.”
Students who are moving to a sizable city such as Austin for the first time or who are simply living on their own may not be fully aware of the dangers a metropolitan area poses, Trejo said. Leaving doors, windows and cars unlocked are common reasons for the high theft rate in both the West Campus and Riverside areas.
“The dormitory type of apartments that are on West Campus … those are the ones that have been getting hit a lot,” Trejo said. “The latest one we’ve had this semester is students leaving their apartment unlocked, and someone’s just walking in and cleaning them out.”