The Arizona Desert Lamp

Alcohol-related arrests make up 52 percent of UAPD workload

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 5 October 2009

UAPD Arrests Per Year (3-year-average)

The University of Arizona Police Department has released the 2009 Campus Safety & Security Report [PDF], and like last year’s report it’s chock-full of stats relating to your University police. Last year’s data set has been updated to include 2008 data, and can be obtained here.

For every 100 arrests that the UAPD made in 2008, 52 of them related to consumption of alcohol products. To be fair, the UAPD deserves a modicum of credit for the reduction in drug arrests, but these sorts of victimless crimes combined make up 72.52 percent of all UAPD arrests. Compare this to the 2000 stats, where such crimes only accounted for 60.67 percent of arrests, and one can see a clear trend away from actual police work, and towards nanny-state-style enforcement. By way of comparison, alcohol- and drug-related crimes made up only 31.88 percent of reported crimes in 2008; and while theft (not including attempted theft) made up 39.49 percent of reported crimes, only 13.36 percent of arrests were theft-related. The 37 automobile arrests reported to UAPD resulted in only 3 arrests – assuming that the charges stuck, an 8.1 percent success rate.

Such numbers should be kept in mind as UAPD discusses its mission of “community policing,” or as law enforcement types claim that they need something like Proposition 200 to stay reasonably funded. It’s useless to discuss police budgets – or, really, to discuss policing period – without considering the awesome costs of drug-policy enforcement.

The magnitude of these costs is even greater for the UAPD, which professes to practice “community policing” within the greater campus area. Much of “community policing” involves actual recognition of the community in which one exercises police powers. In the UAPD’s case, this means understanding a bit about the UA. As a community, the UA consists almost entirely of those aged 18-25, existing in a state where they reap many of the benefits of independence, with few of the responsibilities. Such a situation leads to later hours, more partying, and increased drug and alcohol use. What community policing does not entail is enforcing the area as though it were a quiet, gated community. It means simple acceptance that, in accordance with 800 years of tradition, college students drink; and as a result, police should be encouraging safe drinking habits, rather than making doors open at the slightest whiff of swill-water.

Even beyond the costs of expending over half of policing efforts to enforce policy driven by highway funding stipulations, officers cracking down on underage drinking face opportunity costs. Every time an officer calls in backup to conduct breathalyzer tests, that’s one officer that can’t be patrolling the streets, investigating a crime, discussing issues with a student, or providing safety detail in an unsafe part of campus. Students are not stupid, and will combine these insights with the two main duties that they actually see police performing: issuing speeding tickets, and busting parties. Do such activities engender respect for policing as a profession? Will students leave campus with profound respect for the work that police do in keeping a community (as they should), or will they leave feeling as though police mostly just exist to cause trouble to people like themselves (which, according to statistics, they do)?

It goes without saying that there are many cases in which such arrests are more than justified, and parties are a problem insofar as they pose a noise nuisance to their neighbors. But if arrests may be viewed as the productive activity of a police department, then over 70 percent of the UAPD’s production comes in the form of drug and drinking citations. It remains this author’s opinion that correcting this misallocation of resources is a far better approach to improving police work in Tucson, and the country as a whole. It is necessary to change the laws that relate to drug and alcohol use in this state and the country; but for now, a simple return to the policing priorities at the beginning of the decade will suffice.

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