Another weekend, another report by police detailing this city’s problems with alcohol.
The weekly Prince Albert Police Service report that comes out every Sunday evening indicates the number of calls that police responded to and the number of arrests.
On this past weekend, it was 224 calls and 59 arrests. Of those arrests, 26 were linked to public intoxication.
It’s a special statistic that the police service breaks out virtually every week. It’s a good thing that they do because it provides some important insight into the alcohol problem that Prince Albert faces.
And while we live in a society where alcohol remains readily available -- regardless of the toll it takes on lives -- the move seems to be towards making it even easier to buy.
It’s a point that concerns police Chief Troy Cooper, who has spoken at length about the damage that alcohol does in this community. In fact, in the past he has referred to it as one of the most pressing items on his agenda.
“We know that a lot of our violent crime was driven by alcohol, and so throughout the year we worked with our partner agencies in Community Mobilization,” he said in a year-end interview in December.
“We’ve started down the road of developing an alcohol strategy and we’re just excited to see some of those focus groups that will be taking place over the next couple of months.”
The focus groups are now meeting and we remain hopeful that they’ll be able to carve out some kind of solution -- however small -- to help the city.
It’s also a message that has been clearly heard at city hall, as the mayor and council have been quick to discourage any kind of extra liquor availability, whether it be through expanded retail hours or even restricting drive-thru retailers.
It’s a stubborn issue that won’t be solved through government intervention alone.
It also speaks to a recklessness and hopelessness in peoples’ lives and perhaps a genetic predisposition to addiction.
The problems also point to a “party” atmosphere among younger drinkers that isn’t leading to anywhere good.
Binge drinking is a significant factor.
At a meeting last December, police presented statistics that suggested youth drinking numbers in the city are higher than average; 552 of the 5,595 people arrested from 2009 to 2012 for public intoxication were youth.
Where 49.4 per cent of Grade 10 students across Canada reported binge drinking, the number for Prince Albert tenth-graders is 67.9 per cent.
Young drinkers are only part of a larger problem.
City police say they spent $2.5 million between May 2009 and 2012 for the arrest and lodging of people solely due to public intoxication.
In 2012 alone, 1,341 hours (or 55 days) of policing services were spent on public intoxication arrests.
The city can cut back on availability and the police and Community Mobilization can deal with the after-affects but the problem remains in the middle. People are ultimately responsible for themselves.
If they drink stupidly, stupid things happen.
The proof of that shows up every Sunday evening with the police press release.
Prince Albert Daily Herald