AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk is expected to lay out limitations on public camping in the city.
At least, that’s what Mayor Steve Adler says.
On Thursday, Mayor Adler spoke at a forum with other city leaders about solutions to homelessness in Austin.
We know the City Manager’s list of recommended places for camping limitations will likely focus on areas with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and areas that are flood-prone.
On Thursday, Mayor Adler said street medians might be one example.
The limitations would be the latest revision to an ordinance change that made public camping legal in Austin, with a few exceptions.
That ordinance change, intended to decriminalize certain behaviors and improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness, has made camp sites more visible around the city.
It’s also been unpopular with many businesses and city residents, who have cried foul about safety and public health concerns.
Earlier this week, University of Texas Police Chief David Carter asked city leaders to prevent homeless people from camping along the perimeter of campus.
Mayor Adler didn’t specifically say whether that was on the table, but did say camping could be limited along an area like The Drag because of heavy foot and vehicle traffic there.
Police wouldn’t be enforcing these limitations with arrests or citations, Adler said. It would likely be more of a role for the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST).
“We need to provide non-police intervention, because ultimately that makes our community safer,” said Adler.
Manley: crime not up since ordinance change
At Thursday’s forum, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told the audience that despite perception, crime had not gone up since the relaxed camping ordinance took effect.
He says officers are tracking data related to the changes, though.
“The officers are making notations if they were unable to take an action in an incident but would have been under the prior ordinance,” said Manley. “We’re trying to collect that data so we can measure the impact of the change.”
While public camping is no longer considered a crime, police can still take action if they feel the act is hazardous, dangerous, or obstructs a right-of-way.
According to city court records, police have only given one citation since July 1st for public camping. Records show that was at Roy G. Guerrero Park on July 5th
For the first six months of the year, APD issued 78 citations.
“They still have the discretion to handle that in what they believe is the most appropriate way,” said Manley.
“Although there may have only been one or two enforcement actions, it doesn’t mean we might not have gone out to other calls, and had people change a behavior.”