AUSTIN, Texas – If you’ve been at the 7-Eleven at Oltorf and Parker lately, you may have noticed classical music and opera playing.
The owner says the goal is to deter homeless individuals from being there and harassing customers. Some customers say they’re all for the music, while others are annoyed by it.
The city says they’ve gotten eight noise complaints at that location Jan. 1. The Austin Police Department says they do respond to noise complaints if it’s ongoing. If there is a complainant, and they are able to verify the offense, they will issue a verbal warning. If they have to return within a certain number of hours, they may issue a citation.
The store owner, Jagat Patel, says no one from the city has shown up. He doesn’t know whether the actual decibel level falls within city ordinance, but is planning on lowering the sound.
Patel says the homeless population has been a big problem.
“Especially a lot of my female customers and my young customers are scared to come here, because there are people constantly hanging out in the parking lot soliciting for money,” he said.
He says he’s had to pay a professional to clean up needles. Others who work nearby say they’ve been attacked.
“I have to carry this big old knife with me just to defend myself, it’s sad that you have to do that,” Joe Miranda, who works nearby, said.
Patel says he started playing the music about 10 days ago and got the idea because other store owners have it.
“Studies have shown that the classical music is annoying. Opera is annoying, and I’m assuming they are correct because it’s working,” he said.
“Now since they’ve had this music going on, we have less traffic down with the homeless out here,” Miranda said.
Miranda says he thinks it’s the right solution.
“It’s helping out, it’s not annoying to us because it doesn’t bother us, but it bothers probably them because they’re doing drugs,” he said.
Others think the opposite.
“I believe, just talk to them, and ask them not to hang around, or not to live around, whatever, I think that’s the best solution,” Frederick Carter, who lives nearby, said.
He says he’s started going to a different 7-Eleven that doesn’t have music.
“This music is not very good, it’s loud, it’s obnoxious to me, I don’t like it, you can hear it a long ways off, it’s very disturbing,” he said.
For now, the music will continue.
“We are in the process of turning it down, because people who live across the parking lot are also my customers, and we don’t want to make their life difficult,” Patel said.
He says something needs to be done about an encampment at an abandoned building next door.
“It’s becoming a huge headache to conduct business, and a lot of my customers are scared,” Patel said.
APD said they weren’t able to answer our questions about the nearby homeless population today. In the past, they’ve mentioned taking part in city outreach programs to get people connected to housing and services.