Besides seeing a man on K2 strip down and begin to masturbate in front of customers and her, that particular June day was otherwise a normal day at 7-Eleven for cashier ViVi Hernandez.
Since a recent spike in the use of K2, a form of synthetic marijuana, in Austin, UTPD has instructed officers to patrol farther into West Campus to better monitor the homeless community. According to UTPD officer Peter Scheets, this increase in drug usage affected the mental health of many members of the Austin homeless community.
“We’re problem solvers, so if we see a person who’s having an issue, we try to find out what the problem is and then get resources for them if they want it,” Scheets said. “That includes taking them into
psychiatric services. … We’ve arrested most of them that’ve been bringing the K2 around here in an effort to make it safer for everyone out here.”
K2 affects users by heightening their senses, causing fits of aggressiveness, paranoia and hallucinations, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Hernandez said her encounter at 7-Eleven this summer was one example of the recent incidents caused by an increase in the use of K2 on the Drag.
“I was creeped out,” Hernandez said. “I couldn’t see what he was doing, I saw him just standing there looking up, and I was like ‘What is he doing?’ And then the sliding doors opened, and that’s when I saw what he was doing.”
According to Levon Sherman, a manager at Austin’s Pizza, incidences like the 7-Eleven case were common throughout the summer. Sherman, who has struggled with narcotics, said he has a heart for people with mental illness who are on the streets, but he said he wishes the City provided more services for drug rehabilitation.
“I’ve lost friends to hard drugs … I’ve seen the bad sides of it, and I think those people need to be willing to help themselves if they want help from others,” Sherman said.
Sarah Cordill, a nutrition and public health senior, said she and some friends have experienced the aggressive behavior associated with K2 while walking along the Drag.
“I live just a couple streets off campus, in between MLK and 22 1/2 Street, and I get scared walking home if I stay at the library too late,” Cordill said.
Donny Cobb, who said he has resided on the Drag with his daughter since October 2014, said he has witnessed the drug’s addictive nature affect someone close to him.
“I see a lot of people losing their lives out here,” Cobb said. “In the short time they’re out here, they get started on the K2, and it’s so addictive. People are getting really sick from it.