Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More Facts on Alcohol Sting

The Iowa City Police Department issued a press release yesterday on one of their ongoing operations:
Alcohol sales law compliance checks were conducted on November 15, 2013 and again on February 7, 2014 at several businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. Working with plainclothes officers, underage persons entered these businesses and attempted to illegally purchase alcoholic beverages.
Long list, long story short: 60 places passed, 6 busted.

The release goes into great detail about the rationale and funding:
Current research shows that effective and regular compliance checks helps decrease alcohol sales to minors; helps reduce underage drinking which in turn reduces alcohol related traffic crashes, violence, and other health problems associated with alcohol; and helps build healthier and safer communities. Some of the Compliance Checks are being funded through the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). The goals of the grant are to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, including childhood and underage drinking; reduce substance abuse-related problems in communities, and build prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state/tribal and community level.
But one key fact is omitted: the AGE of the people involved.

As you know, my beef is with the drinking age law itself. To me, there's a big difference between selling to a 16 year old juvenile who probably shouldn't be drinking vs. an 18 19 or 20 year old who had all the rights of adulthood EXCEPT drinking. If a 20 year old goes into Kum & Go (one of the places busted) and buys beer, Kum & Go shouldn't get a $500 ticket - they should get the person's money and that's all.

This omission has long been a pet peeve of mine, so yesterday I finally followed up and asked for the birth dates, expecting to get a long delay and a refusal. Instead, I got a reply within about an hour from Chief Sam Hargadine himself.
The birth dates for the actor(s) are:

November 2013 sting
Nov. xxx, 1993
Apr xxx, 1994

February 2014 sting
Nov. xxx, 1993

Both actors were 20 years of age when the alcohol purchases were made.  Only one actor was utilized in the latest compliance check.
Hargadine supplied the full birth dates. I chose to omit the exact day to make the buyers harder to ID.

I was pleasantly surprised by the response, but disappointed and unsurprised by the facts. The buyer this month was near the very top of the age range: 20 years and 3 months, a legal adult in my book. Hargadine again:
You make a good point.  We usually get our actors from the Kirkwood Criminal Justice program.  When the notice goes out it usually is filtered through teachers and they simply ask for those interested that under the age of 21.  Sometimes we get 5-6 interested and other times just one or two.
I don't have any suggestions on that point, as my answer is "change the bad law" and that doesn't help Hargadine any. But in the meantime, why is the city pursuing these grants to hyper-enforce a bad law by playing a gotcha game using people on the highest end of the "underage" (sic) drinking range?

Society's attitude is "well, it's kinda sorta OK for college age kids to drink, though we want to keep it illegal to keep it down, but what we REALLY want is to keep it out of high schools." With that in mind, I'd refocus the compliance efforts, if we insist on them, on high school aged people.

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