The city, the base and the local bar owners are working to try and reduce some of the problems associated with alcohol.
Beyond DUI cases, however, nobody really knows how many crimes police deal with in which alcohol is a factor -- because nobody keeps any records. Yet, almost any cop you meet will tell you that the vast majority of the assaults (often bar fights) and domestic violence cases they deal with, involve alcohol. In cases where the courts order pre-sentencing reports, it's not unusual at all for investigators to discover a history of alcohol-related problems that led to a person's conviction for inappropriate behavior.
Alcohol is a contributing factor behind many, many social problems in this country.
But the problem can't be solved just by some shuttle buses to the base, lectures to airmen, designated driver "drink responsibly" commercials, or a couple class periods in a high school health class.
We have to undergo a cultural change that says getting drunk isn't cool, that getting blasted isn't something to brag about. How many young people -- or adults -- do you know who try to impress their peers with their stories of binge drinking. We have to convince people that when they hit their limit, it's time to stop, and then praise them for being responsible.
But that cultural change won't happen without better awareness of the problem and some penalties for letting alcohol rule a person's behavior.
So we're proposing that the Idaho legislature, and specifically our local District 23 legislators, take up the issue of this problem and create a special "enhancement" for crimes in which alcohol is a factor (similar to what is done when guns are used in a crime). Ranging from extra fines, and in some cases mandatory jail time and required alcohol counseling, for specific crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies the legislature could create some staggered "enhancements" as the severity of a crime increases.
This would do a number of things. Arrests would show up in the paper with such reports as "assault, with alcohol enhancement," which would highlight to people just how often alcohol is a factor in a crime. They'd start to see how widespread the problem is.
It also would allow officers to give breathalyzer tests of people they arrest for the "enhanced" crimes, even if they weren't behind the wheel of a car. This would result in a solid, reportable number that could be used in crime statistics, which often are the starting point for special policies and campaigns (such as seeing the need for greatly expanded alcohol counseling programs or drug and alcohol courts).
And finally, the enhanced penalties would, eventually, make people stop to think about whether or not they need that extra drink. There would be some teeth in "drink responsibly" campaigns. It would quit being cool to get drunk.
We strongly urge our legislators to take up this "alcohol inhancement" cause.
-- Kelly Everitt