The San Antonio City Council Public Safety Committee today will discuss a number of controversial proposals to deal with so called 'Quality of Life' crimes in the city, including a measure to allow police to ticket motorists who give money to those 'cardboard sign' panhandlers along the highway, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
The idea is to convince panhandlers that they will not make any money standing at street corners begging for change, and will go elsewhere.
But Karina Gill, a professor at the Worden School of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University and an expert in the problems faced by the poor in America, says this is the exact opposite of the approach the city should be taking.
"It sounds like the city ordinance is really trying to criminalize homeless people," she said.
Gil said a policy that encourages people to be 'less compassionate' should not be written into city law.
"This is requesting people, the residents of San Antonio, to be less compassionate," she said. "I have a lot of concern about that."
The panhandler proposal is one of dozens of measures being considered by the city to help reduce quality of life crimes, low level criminal activity like graffiti, car burglary, prostitution, and small time drug crimes, which don't endanger the public, but make it more annoying and inconvenient to live in San Antonio.
When he was mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani called it the 'broken window syndrome,' the idea that wiping out smaller crimes helps lead to a reduction in more serious offenses.
For example, to fight prostitution, the city says it plans to work with the hotel motel industry to eliminate the practice of renting out motel rooms for less than 12 hours at a stretch.
Many of the anti prostitution measures involving helping hookers get into the drug treatment problems many of them need.
"Police VICE supervisors are meeting with Bexar County's 175th District Court officials to study their 'Experanza Project' which is a county project offering offenders alternatives to jail found in the social services area," the city says.
To fight other crimes, there is also a proposal to 'crack down on open air drug markets,' partnering with mall operators to fight car burglary, and establish a quick strike force to go after graffiti taggers.
But the most controversial are the proposals to fight panhandling. The city is discussing upping from a Class C misdemeanor (a traffic ticket) to a Class B misdemeanor (jail time) for chronic public intoxication offenders, a 'mobile crisis outreach teal' to take mentally ill and substance abusing panhandlers in for housing and treatment, 'dismantling' homeless camps, and instituting a 'citywide zero tolerance program on panhandlers and conducting weekly round ups with arrests.'