Businesses’ issues with homelessness spur BCSO patrols on San Antonio River Walk
SAN ANTONIO – Problems of downtown businesses with homeless people prompted the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to send MPs on patrol along the River Walk – but not in large numbers or with the ability to apply all local laws.
The River Walk, a premier tourist destination, is usually patrolled by San Antonio Park Police, who report to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus. However, BCSO announced Thursday on Facebook that Sheriff Javier Salazar had “met city center business leaders who have requested a more pronounced presence along the tourist attraction area.”
BCSO deputies, according to the publication, would begin to patrol the River Walk on foot from this weekend, and they “will be equipped with equipment to help tourists find common attractions, but also to help the local population. shelter to find resources. Mental health assistants will be assigned to help support the additional patrols. “
Dawn Ann Larios, executive director of the Texas Restaurant Association West Region – which includes San Antonio – says she and Marco Barros, who represents some downtown business owners, met with Salazar on Wednesday. Larios said he asked BCSO patrols at the meeting to help deter some of the problems companies are having.
“These operators have been devastated for over 13 months, and they’re just trying to get back to some sense of normalcy,” Larios told KSAT. “And having homeless people bathing in the river, sleeping in front of their businesses, begging outside their businesses, that’s right – it’s been devastating for them.”
Homeless people have “every right to go through here,” she said. “But when they are camping, you know, these operators have a problem with that.”
“We have to deter people who want to come here, and if they see any wrongdoing, I think the presence of the police, the presence of the sheriff is going to deter them from being here and causing these problems.”
BCSO’s presence is an idea Larios said he brought up “months ago” at a meeting that included TRA, River Walk operators, Chief McManus and city manager Erik Walsh.
“I called their attention to the fact that, you know, maybe we can ask Bexar County, the sheriff’s office, to help us. And so quickly, it’s that plan that comes to fruition, ”said Larios.
Bob Buchanan, owner of The Original Mexican Restaurant, is happy that there are additional law enforcement along the River Walk. He doesn’t think the park police are present enough.
“Look around in this block, at the top of this block. Do you see a park warden? Buchanan said.
Buchanan said he saw problems urinating and defecating on the River Walk, as well as people taking food and money from tables.
“People who want to take advantage of any situation. They are not stupid. They will come to where the people are and try to see what they can get away with, ”Buchanan said. “And with someone in uniform, I think that will help deter that.”
BCSO spokesman Johnny Garcia said the patrols would only be two teams on Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with three assistants per team, paired with patrol cadets from the Orientation Academy of the patrols.
In response to questions about the existing officer strengths along the River Walk, SAPD spokesperson Mariah Medina told KSAT in an emailed statement the following:
“The Department is tailoring its proactive patrolling strategies based on issues uncovered by officers on patrol, in addition to the regular meetings the Department has with downtown business owners. The issue of the presence of officers has not been raised in recent conversations.
Further, noted Medina, “many of the problems encountered by downtown officers are violations of city ordinances.” These include complaints of noise, unauthorized vendors, aggressive begging and smoking, which MPs are reportedly unable to enforce.
Garcia said foot patrol deputies would be “primarily there to enforce state law and deter criminal activity, including helping tourists find certain destinations and providing additional information as needed.”
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