Hidden Letters to the Editor: The Bar District and Enforcement

This “My Turn” column appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic. Mayor Jim Lane and other members of the city council (Dennis Robbins, Linda Milhaven, Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte) have steadfastly defended the bars and bar property owner/developers like Shawn Yari; even after clear evidence of dramatic increases in property crimes, assaults, sexual assaults, and a high-profile murder.

State Legislature needs to make liquor-law enforcement more police friendly

We continually hear about violent outcomes to citizens encounter­ing drunks and DUI drivers. It’s one tragic and sad tale after another.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s Office for High­way Safety recently awarded an $80,000 grant to Tempe to help the city get a han­dle on its illegal-alcohol activities and re­lated crime.

Officials reported the funds would be used for “DUI enforcement downtown and on streets citywide, including to im­pact Large Party Liquor Enforcement, enhance existing Covert Underage Buy­er Program in partnership with the Ari­zona Department of Liquor License, Control and Investigations, and limit the purchase of alcohol with fraudulent ID in liquor establishments.”

An amount like $80,000 will no doubt help pay the extra overtime in Tempe’s efforts, but what happens when the mon­ey is gone? When you’re paying officers $50-$60 an hour in over­time to make arrests, book suspects into jail and appear in court, the cash will be gone in a flash.

What about prob­lems in other cities? Will there be thou­sands for Scottsdale to help with its booze-re­lated problems in downtown? Will there be money for the Arizona Department of Public Safety and surrounding cities to deal with the problems that are pushed out of Tempe and onto the highways and into Phoenix and other Southeast Valley cities?

With Arizona’s extra-tight budget and the federal sequestration, I doubt there will be many more handouts.

Instead, there needs to be a long-term solution for a known and dangerous problem in Arizona.

Does the Legislature need to make li­quor-law enforcement more police friendly vs. liquor-industry friendly? Should it be easier for officers to make arrests for serving an intoxicated patron or allowing them on the premises, both of which are crimes?

Should using a fake ID card to get al­cohol be a more serious crime? What about a “sin tax” on alcoholic beverages and liquor licenses to pay for police to enforce liquor laws, grants for assis­tance, education and treatment of those with alcohol problems?

Should Arizona return liquor-law en­forcement to DPS and remove it from the state liquor board that’s run by a po­litical appointee? Currently, there are only 10 liquor-board officers enforcing laws at 11,000 establishments.

Should law enforcement “data mine” DUI arrest reports to look for bars that chronically produce drunk drivers? Po­lice officers collect data on where ar­rested drivers were drinking but the in­formation mostly sits in files and could be used as part of an intelligence-led pol­icing effort to prevent crime and target trouble spots.

Bars have long been havens for mon­ey laundering, drugs, stolen property and the sex trade, and with little or no li­quor-law enforcement, these kinds of crimes have only flourished. Should li­quor- law enforcement be a mandated priority for law enforcement?

There’s no question the criminal use of alcohol causes serious problems.

The question is, do Arizona and its cit­ies really want to get serious about con­fronting alcohol-related crime and the misery it causes?

Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective who lives in Tempe.

 

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