SAPD chief: Proposed panhandling ban rooted in danger of addiction

Proposal would make it a crime to give to panhandlers

SAN ANTONIO – Addressing the City Council Tuesday, Police Chief William McManus said he hopes to have a broader conversation about criminalizing giving to panhandlers when he presents the proposal to the council next month.

"I see it as a means to prevent people from enabling addictive behavior," McManus said.

The chief believes giving to panhandlers is a means to their end, which, he says, is almost always drugs and alcohol.

"So if you know that, if you understand that, why would you give money to a panhandler knowing that they're going to go out and buy alcohol or drugs?" McManus said. "And this isn't anecdotal information, this is a fact."

McManus said panhandling is among quality of life issues SAPD plans to address, which also include prostitution and graffiti.

City ordinance stipulates it is illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of an ATM, bank, check-cashing business, charitable contribution meter, locations where drivers pay to park, a restaurant, public transportation facility or crosswalk.

"If you're illegally panhandling, why should it be legal for you to help somebody break the law?" said McManus. "So I'm standing there panhandling, and you give me a dollar, I'm breaking the law and you're not?"

The chief will present the proposal to the City Council next month.

If approved, giving to panhandlers would become a Class C misdemeanor that comes with up to a $500 fine.

"There are ways to give to people who are homeless. You can give to Haven for Hope, you can give to the Salvation Army, you can give to the United Way," said McManus. "But handing somebody a buck or two bucks or five bucks on the street, you might as well hand them a beer out the window."

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