Austin Police Can Begin Ticketing Folks For Panhandling And Tenting Or Sitting In Public


The Austin Police Department will begin enforcing a public camping ban in the city, reintroduced by Austin voters last month.

Proposal B, the citizen-led effort to restore the rules, officially kicked off Jan.

APD said police visited more than 40 camps in the last month to tell people they were breaking the law. Starting today, officials can issue warnings and fines of up to $ 500. The interim police chief Joseph Chacon has announced that the officers will rely more on verbal and written warnings over the next month.

From July 11, according to the APD, officials will issue tickets to people who have been warned in writing. From August 8th, they can arrest people who refuse to move.

Chacon has said he wants arrests for violating the regulations as a “last resort”.

How does APD plan to enforce this?

The APD training bulletin defines a warehouse as a public place where people keep personal items “for a long time” – be it in a tent or a shelter. Vehicles are not specifically included in the ordinance, but APD guidelines suggest officials can also issue quotes for people who sleep in cars.

The officials are obliged to inform people about where to camp or find shelter legally. According to the guidelines, legal campsites include the Esperanza Community, a state-sanctioned camp at 183 in southeast Austin, as well as Austin’s Emma Long Metropolitan Park and McKinney Falls State Park. The city is expected to offer more options at a later date.


The area where sitting or lying down is prohibited

Prop B reintroduced the rules for sitting or lying down in public that were in place before July 2019. It is illegal to sit or lie down in parts of downtown, West Campus, and East Austin. near busy roads and areas that pose a higher risk of forest fires or floods. “

As before, officers are required to give 30-minute notice before citing anyone sitting or lying in a prohibited area. If someone is found “within a few blocks” within “3 to 4 hours,” “it can be assumed that the person has already been notified and can be cited without an additional 30-minute period,” the bulletin says.

When the police arrest someone for violating the regulations, they must ensure that the person’s personal effects are kept in a place where they can be later recovered.

What’s next?

For decades, Austin has failed to provide adequate shelter to people affected by homelessness. While capacity expansion is currently being discussed in the town hall, it is unclear when so-called “crisis beds” will be available for the temporary accommodation of people. As part of the HEAL initiative, the city plans to open makeshift accommodation this summer at the Rodeway Inn near Oltorfstrasse and I-35 for people being moved out of the camps.

The city is also trying to set up temporary campsites on city-owned land, but that plan has proven controversial and difficult. Austinites shied away from the slate of potential locations, which included public parks.

In addition, at that session, state lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit cities from using parkland for temporary camps. The staff informed the council last week that all but one of the 45 proposed sites would be phased out.

Councilors hope to mobilize at least $ 100 million in federal aid from the American Recovery Plan to both build more permanent supportive shelter and meet long-term emergency shelter needs.