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Camping ban Stage 4: Police can now arrest homeless residents violating camping ordinance

Many individuals began camping outside City Hall when the camping ban was overturned, but have since been cleared out. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Phase 4, the final phase, of Proposition B enforcement began Sunday, meaning police can now arrest homeless individuals for camping in the downtown area.

The Austin Police Department can arrest individuals if they do not voluntarily leave an area after receiving a citation in Phase 4. In Phase 3, APD began writing citations and could only arrest if individuals were camping in areas that were deemed dangerous.

Both APD and the city said they are taking a humane approach to the law and doing their best to work with involved people—APD officers have connected homeless individuals to more than 124 social support services in previous phases.

City Council has been criticized in its response to the camping ban reimplementation for not moving forward with a clear plan for homeless people to go. Approval for sanctioned homeless camps, where homeless people can stay with access to resources and without the threat of arrest, has been dragged out by council after not agreeing on the location of the camps.

Since the camping ban was overturned in the May election, APD officers have visited more than 605 homeless individuals or groups, issued 572 written warnings and 24 citations but have made no arrests, according to the city. Arrests made in the future will be processed through the Downtown Austin Community Court.

"I anticipate the number of individuals willing to voluntarily comply with the ordinance will increase moving forward," Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said.

While APD said it is collaborating with the City to promote voluntary compliance, prioritizing enforcement on camping areas with the greatest safety risks, Phase 4 will occur regardless of encampment safety.

Meanwhile, the city will continue to organize camp clean-ups at underpasses, parks and camp communities as needed. The clean-ups are not associated with Prop B implementation.

The City will give an update on the new stage on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. via virtual news conference.


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