SAPD Chief Searching for Answers to Homelessness, Panhandling

By Pilar Arias

San Antonio police Chief William McManus presented an update on homelessness and panhandling Wednesday to the city’s Public Safety Committee.

“Panhandling is not illegal in San Antonio, it’s illegal in certain areas that pose a danger to the public or pose a danger to the person that is soliciting,” McManus said.

McManus presented numbers that showed panhandling arrests are down, while arrests for trespassing are up.

“Arresting someone for a Class C misdemeanor who is homeless is basically a waste of time,” McManus said. He called current law a non-viable enforcement arm.

The chief mentioned two recent stories to the committee, the homeless camps he witnessed during a visit to San Diego in October and arresting the same man twice in one day panhandling near Haven for Hope.

“I asked him why he was out here panhandling and he said, ‘Well, I need money for food,’ and I said, ‘The Haven for Hope’s right up the street. Why don’t you go there?’ He said, ‘Well, I missed breakfast.’ I said, ‘Why’d you miss breakfast?’ He said, ‘Because I was out here panhandling.'”

The chief said he recovered syringes from that same man.

So far this year SAPD has made 937 panhandling arrests and 1,202 trespassing arrests citywide. McManus said of the 958 businesses contact to sign criminal trespassing affidavits, 901 have been signed to date.

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