San Antonio Police and the Bexar County District Attorney says the 'cite and release' program, to write tickets to low level non violent offenders instead of booking them into jail, has been a success since it was started in July, and Police Chief Bill McManus says he is exploring ways to expand the program, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Officials told City Council that there have been 1,509 apprehensions for misdemeanor crimes eligible for City and Release since the program began, mainly minor marijuana possession, and more than one third of the individuals involved who would previously have been booked into jail instead received citations.
McManus says that frees an individual from having the lifelong burden of an incarceration, which can, in many cases, prevent the person from getting a job, enlist in the military, or even qualify for a loan.
"There are some folks out there who may get arrested on time in their life, for having a joint, or something, and this program keeps them from getting caught up in the judicial system," McManus said.
He says it also saves taxpayer money by cutting down on overcrowding at the County Jail.
But he says the real benefit to taxpayers is that police officers since July have been on patrol more than 935 hours more than they otherwise would have been, if they had to spend much of their shift booking low level offenders into the county jail.
"The selling point for SAPD in participating in this program is, it allows officers to return to the field far more quickly when we site than when we arrest."
'Cite and Release' is not decriminalization. People who are given tickets have to report to Municipal Court, see a judge, and go through classes, or community service, as well has qualify for the program. McManus says before writing a citiation, his officers will check out the individual's past criminal record and other factors that could affect their ability to participate in the program.
While McManus is looking at expanding the range of non violent misdemeanor offenses that qualify for City and Release, he remains adamant that one crime will never allow offenders to particpate in the program...and that is Graffiti violations.