New data shows where, when San Antonio police issue citations instead of arrests for minor offenses

Cite and release program started up in 2019

KSAT12's Fares Sabawi joins GMSA@9 to discuss the SAPD's cite and release program.

SAN ANTONIO – In an effort to provide more transparency and a comprehensive look at crime trends, the San Antonio Police Department recently released a dashboard showing the latest cite and release numbers recorded by officers in the past few months.

The program provides officers the discretion to issue a citation to someone accused of a low-level offense — like drug possession, driving without a license or petty theft — instead of arresting them.

When announcing the policy in 2019, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said it would “help us prosecute the most serious crimes while keeping our jail free of people who ought not to be there. The jail is for people who are … truly violent, not people who are nonviolent, not people who are languishing, awaiting their day in court.”

Every three months, the police department typically releases a report on its cite and release program, which first began in July 2019.

This quarter, however, the department released a data dashboard on the cite and release numbers recorded between January and March of 2021. The data includes race, age, disposition and location.

The charges eligible for cite and release are:

  • Class B Possession of Marijuana (0-2 oz.)
  • Class A Possession of Marijuana (2-4 oz.)
  • Class B Possession of Substance in Penalty Group 2-A (0-2 oz.)
  • Class A Possession of Substance in Penalty Group 2-A (2-4 oz.)
  • Class B Criminal Mischief ($100 or over and less than $750)
  • Class B Theft from businesses ($100 or over and less than $750)
  • Class B Theft of Service ($100 or over and less than $750)
  • Class B Contraband in a Correctional Facility
  • Driving While License Invalid

According to the data, police encountered 896 people accused of committing one of the crimes that meet the criteria for cite and release. More than half, 58% in all, were arrested on multiple charges or outstanding warrants, making them ineligible for the jail diversion.

But for the remaining 377 suspected offenders, 305 of them were released under the program.

The data also breaks down the releases by ethnicity, age and gender. Of the 305 released, 217 are Hispanic, 33 are Black, and 51 are white. The release rate for Hispanic offenders stood at 82%, while the release rate for Black and white offenders stood at 77%.

Though the sheer number of encounters were lower this year compared to last year, likely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rates of release were “similar across comparison periods,” according to the latest report from the police department.

When it comes to age, the data shows the cite and release program typically benefits younger people. More than 80% of those released under the program were younger than 40.

More than 80% of those released under the program were cited for Class B misdemeanor Theft or Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession.

A recent report from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office said the program has saved taxpayers $2.6 million on booking costs. In 2020, prosecutors only filed 16 Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases.

Cite and release data from Bexar County District Attorney's Office (KSAT)

Read the department’s full quarterly cite and release analysis below:

Read more:

In Bexar County, prosecution of marijuana possession cases is down 99.6% since 2018, district attorney says

SAPD citing people 34% of the time in Cite and Release program

Bexar County to push for expanded cite-and-release program in Texas Legislature