Austin police union president says updated camping ordinances are tying officers' hands

According to Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday, things have changed since the Austin City Council relaxed the camping ordinances for the city's homeless.

“I've talked to business owners who have started crying, because their businesses have been destroyed by these people defecating and urinating on their property,” said Casaday.

Camping is already prohibited in areas such as City Hall, private property, parks, bus stops, the Capitol and the Governor's Mansion. The mayor is looking at adding Sixth Street, Congress Avenue, Second Street and The Drag to that list.

“We see what appears to be growing numbers of the homeless out in public spaces,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. "Maybe in the past they were out in the woods, in secluded areas."

Manley says his department will continue to provide info to the mayor on how these ordinance changes are affecting the police on the streets.

“When someone calls 9-1-1 because there is a person sitting a lying in front of their business and camping in front of their business, in the past the way the ordinances were written, that was the violation," Manley said. "The officer would arrive and have an ordinance to work with, and oftentimes with a voluntary compliance. Now what we are left is if the officer arrives, and we cannot establish that the conduct is hazardous dangerous or obstructing, we do not have any authority."

Manley says officers are seeing more elaborate structures put up around the city now.

“It used to have been a sleeping bag and a pillow, now we are seeing a queen sized mattress, and a nightstand and a recliner,” said Manley.

All sides can agree that the homeless population needs help in many areas, including mental healthcare, but figuring out how the problem is going to be solved, will take compromise.

“I don’t care what the city council says," Casaday said. "After they changed those ordinances, the homeless people became very defiant when dealing with police officers, very in your face, very disrespectful."