Friday, August 06, 2010

Mail Call

Hey so I saw your blog and I must say I enjoy reading it. Also, I had a question for you that maybe you can answer: I am a senior at UGA, and I've been here long enough to know that Athens, GA is a party town, but one thing I don't understand is how come cops allow all these underage students drink night after night. It's no secret that people under 21 are downtown partying, but besides some raids, nothing is done about it. I don't know many people that have gotten caught, and I know plenty that shouldn't be there downtown. I don't even understand how raids work. I know that they happen, but how come more students aren't caught? Do the cops not care that most of the people there have fakes and just look for those who pass back?

If you could just answer these few questions, that'd be great! I look forward to reading more of your entertaining blogs!

Good question.

This is something that enters the mind of anyone over the age of 25 to 30 who comes to town and ventures downtown and takes a look around at what's going on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

I think the bottom line is numbers. The Athens-Clarke Police Department has an authorized strength of 231 sworn positions. As far as I can tell on their website, UGA seems to have roughly 40 to 50 officers. That's a total of about 281 police officers.

UGA has an estimated enrollment of about 35,000 students. That means there's about 1 officer for every 125 students. And let's not forget to take into account that the Athens-Clarke PD also has to deal with the other 100k Athens citizens that live there year-round. Plus, there's the students who go to Athens-Tech, Gainesville College, and Piedmont. At this point we're talking about 1 officer to every 500 people total.

Again, it's a game of numbers. The cops simply don't have the resources to crack down on underaged drinking. And even when they do crack down - for example, underaged drinkers are now brought to jail instead of just being written a citation and sent on their way like they used to do - it doesn't do a hell of a lot.

Sure, it exists and we all see it every time we're downtown, but the fact of the matter is that one underaged arrest takes an enormous amount of time and energy from the police officer, the jail, the courts, judges, prosecutors, the probation office, and UGA as well.

Do I think it's a problem? Absolutely. Underaged drinkers make life uncomfortable and inconvenient for all of us. I remember innocently standing in line for the bathroom at the now-defunct "Bird Dog" years ago and getting puked on by a grossly-underaged frat boy who had taken too many shots of whiskey. On the more extreme end of things, I had a drunk kid punch me in the face last weekend while I stood at the door. He was of age. So underaged or not, drunk people do stupid shit.

As a matter of personal opinion, I think some of the cops take a "been there done that" sort of attitude. I went downtown when I was underaged. Some of them did, too. A lot of us have. It's a a common thing to do. That doesn't make it right.

But at the end of the day, even if they had an "Underaged Drinkers Task Force" that got together on Friday and Saturday, breaking up house parties, cruising through the local pools in the afternoon and checking the ID's of every person to set foot downtown after 11pm, what would that really accomplish? Besides the feeling of a police state everywhere you went, in the long term it would clog up the courts, and ultimately make UGA and Athens a less attractive option for college students and athletes, which is the revenue engine the entire town runs on.

It's probably a combination of the above reasons that the police choose to enforce it when they have to. It's an annoying problem, and it can be deadly, but until they figure out a way to eradicate it (which they'll likely never do) underage drinking among college students is here to stay.


At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember at freshman orientation, the police chief talked it us and said that even if there wasn't a drinking age, they would still be making the same amount of arrests. It would just be on charges of public drunkenness and the like. So essentially, they don't care if you drink responsibly but if you have enough that you put yourself or others in danger then it's the issue.

This is a smart policy. It doesn't exactly matter what age people; we should trust people - especially legal adults at age 18 who can go fight and die for our country - to be able to enjoy alcohol if they choose to. It's personal choice and in general, from a libertarian political perspective, they are making too many arrests as it is. They should be more concerned with safety, theft, etc.


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