Austin Police Make First Arrest For Violating The City's New Ban On Camping Outside The ARCH

Nov 5, 2019

A day after clearing encampments outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, Austin police on Tuesday arrested a man for allegedly violating the city's new camping ban near the downtown shelter.

The Austin Police Department said officers were cleaning up camps around 4 a.m. with Austin Resource Recovery. Police said Julian Reyes refused to move and was arrested for violating the ban. APD said he was taken in without incident. Tickets for violating the rules typically cost a little over $200. According to Travis County records, Reyes was released Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Reyes, who said he's been chronically homelessness for the last nine years or so, protested outside the ARCH for hours as city crews removed people's belongings and cleaned up trash near camps. He writes for The Challenger, a newspaper written and distributed by homeless Austinites.

The city began informing people the new camping ordinances would be enforced on Oct. 28, then postponed a cleanup scheduled later that week, rescheduling it for Monday. Reyes told KUT the cleanup and the city's policy was "all stick, no carrot," and that the city didn't come through on its policy of first offering warnings, then tickets, before arresting people.

"Every day since last Monday they said they were going to come get all our stuff, and no one's offered any housing," he said. "The shelters are full. There's nowhere to go."

Austin police told the city's Public Safety Commission on Monday that it didn't issue any tickets or arrest any homeless Austinites during its cleanup. Police Chief Brian Manley also told commissioners there were "no altercations" at the state-backed cleanups under overpasses in South Austin on Monday.

Manley said police spoke with 156 people within the area around the ARCH where camping is banned, from Brazos Street to I-35 and from Fourth to 11th streets. Sixty-five of those people gave their names to officers to be placed on a list that requires officers to inform them of legal camping or shelter opportunities before issuing a ticket or making an arrest. Austin City Council members emphasized non-punitive outcomes in drafting the new ordinance.

"Again, this is something we've said all along, that homelessness is not something you're going to police yourselves out of," Manley said. "We absolutely play a role in this, and we will play that role and we will work within the authorities that were given under these ordinances."

This story has been updated.