SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — San Marcos City Council members passed a new rule Tuesday night that orders police officers to issue more tickets and make fewer arrests.
Officers will be required to to use the “cite and release” concept more often.
“Cite and release” means giving someone a ticket for certain low-level offenses instead of arresting them.
A city spokesperson says the ordinance will go into effect May 31.
“These people aren’t being released and say, ‘Just go away, you don’t have to come back.’ They still have to come back to the court and answer to this,” says Shannon FitzPatrick, board member of Mano Amiga, a nonprofit that has been pushing for this new rule for months.
FitzPatrick is also an attorney who worked for Texas State University for 20 years.
“I tended to deal with a lot of criminal matters that students dealt with. What I would see frequently is students who would get arrested for a small misdemeanor, say, a joint and they would have to spend the night in jail,” she says. “And if they had an exam in the morning, that would be a fail. If they had a job that they had to report to within a certain number of hours and they couldn’t get there, they would lose their jobs.”
But not everyone is happy about San Marcos’ move.
“I’m disappointed in the council majority,” says Bucky Couch, chair of the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce’s governmental affairs advisory council.
Under the ordinance, thefts of $375 or less are eligible for a ticket.
Couch says that’s not good for business.
“If they catch the suspect, the suspect gets written up as citation just like he would if you ran a red light. And as a business owner. It just doesn’t seem right,” says Bucky, a business owner who says he’s experienced theft at one of his own restaurants before.
Couch says he hopes council members are willing to reconsider the ordinance after the six-month progress report.
“Maybe it’s okay, maybe it’s not and then they can revisit that again,” he says.
Under San Marcos’ new ordinance, police are still allowed to use their discretion to arrest someone. For example, if they think that person could be a danger to themselves or the public.
Officers would have to include the reason for arrest in their incident reports.
A city spokesperson says the clerk and legal team are working on writing the final ordinance and a copy won’t be available until after May 5, however you can find the latest version here.
The City of Austin adopted a similar resolution in June of 2018 but those are guidelines, whereas San Marcos passed an ordinance — which becomes law.