Thursday, November 8, 2012

Austin Police Work To Mitigate Panhandling Downtown

I live and work just north of Austin, Texas so I get down there pretty often. It's a really unique place with a vibe that's best characterized by the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird". The downtown 6th Street entertainment district is a world class tourist draw. Unfortunately, Austin is also having to deal with problems of aggressive panhandling and other public nuisance crimes. There were a couple of news stories this week that looked at what Austin Police are doing to try and solve these problems.

The first was a piece at the Austin Chronicle that had this bit about APD's Public Order Initiative:
The POI was not created to clean the streets in the run up to the Formula One race next weekend, Carter reiterated, but rather as a broken windows-style initiative, where police show zero tolerance for the kind of street-level crimes that can, unchecked, lead to a larger breakdown of public order and safety. Since the POI launch Sept. 20, police have made 48 felony arrests and have cited more than 1,900 for misdemeanor infractions.
Another story over at radio station KUT's website expands on the scope of the problem.
"The transient issue is not just downtown," McGovern says. "This is a city-wide issue, you can see them at every major on ramp and off ramp of every highway, major intersections. It is acute downtown because of all the social services that are concentrated in downtown. And those social services are overwhelmed which causes a lot of the transients to overflow onto the streets."
The Problem Oriented Policing Center has one of their great POP Guides that looks at Panhandling from a problem oriented policing perspective.  Nearly every city at some point will have to confront complaints about the homeless and aggressive panhandling. Even in the sleepy little burg where I work we regularly get complaints about this type of behavior in our downtown area.

Has your agency had to deal with an aggressive panhandling problem? What worked for your agency?

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