Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nothing Sacred - Day Three

How long can James blog about drinking without actually blogging about drinking?

Over the last two days I have blogged about the series of infiltrations performed by the highly specialized counter-drunkard forces of the Irving Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comission last Friday. First I leveled my amoral outrage at the fact that they would do something like this and yesterday I mocked the appropriatedly named Nameless Reuters Wire-Monkey (NRWM) and then pointed you guys to some useful information out there on the web. Sorry I couldn’t jazz it up with some boobies or something else, but every once in a great while I will stumble across something on the Internet that is neither geek nor porn. It was one of those days.

So now we are on day three of James blogging in minuscule outrage about TABC’s strategic plan to rid the state of drunk drivers 36 bars at a time. In this episode we learn that, yes my friends, the long arm of Johnny Law has been a bit busier than I first suspected. While discussing the events in Irving with a coworker I was pointed to this article in my very own Houston Chronicle (Viva la Post!):
Public intoxication stings catch 2,200 in Texas bars

More than 2,200 people have been arrested in Texas bars in the six months since the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced a crackdown on public intoxication, primarily targeting bars.

The arrests included people who were drunk in bars, who sold alcohol to a drunk person, or a drunk employee on the premises of a bar or restaurant with a license to sell alcohol, said Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for the TABC.
Sweet Monkey Jesus! 2,200 people?!?!? This is really the only new news the article has to offer. Well, that and the fact that this is called Operation Last Call. Excellent name choice! I can imagine some TABC bureaucrat giggling to himself as he came up with that whopper of a name in much the same way I giggle to myself when I come up with something Damn Funny. However, unlike the previous articles, this article had an actual person’s name attached to the article, with email address. This being the case I thought I would fire off an email to the author of the article and ask whether she knows if anyone has done any statistical analysis to see if this program is actually paying off or is the TABC just wasting people’s time. Here is the email:

I just read your March 23rd article titled “Public intoxication stings catch 2,200 in Texas bars.” While I have been aware of the TABC program since earlier in the week when a friend of mine pointed me to some coverage from the Dallas area, this is the first time I have read anything to indicate it is has been more widespread than just the thirty people arrested in Irving. Since the program is clearly fairly large and has been going on for just over six months I was wondering if the TABC or anyone else has taken a look at the DWI/DUI statistics from the areas where they have been active to see if there has been a decrease in the number of incidents since the program’s inception. While this program offends my inner drinker, if it is actually working and saving lives then I will come to a grumbling acceptance of it, however if not it seems that the officers involved in the program could be put to more productive use.

Sincerely yours,

James XXXX
Almost immediately I got the following response:
Thanks for your response. I am at a loss right now to answer your questions. I do know that in the Houston area, the TABC works closely with Houston police intracking DWI arrests, then working “backwards,” so to speak. For example, it is not uncommon for a Houston police officer to ask a person suspected of DWI where he/she had his/her “last” drink. In many cases, the same taverns/pubs come up, or are mentioned. TABC then tries to monitor that establishment, in an effort to prevent people from driving under the influence.

TABC does allow publicly intoxicated people to go home with a designated driver, if they really do know that person. For example, if you are in a bar with a friend or significant other, and that person is intoxicated, they might give you a ticket, but not arrest you. They want you to get home safely. The spokeswoman for the agency said it would be extremely rare to allow a person who was clearly intoxicated to simply call a cab, because that person might not make it home – they could easily ask the driver to pull into the next bar. Or, they could get out of the cab a few blocks away. In Houston, that would mean danger. Trust me on this. There’s either a dangerous person lurking around, a Metro bus, or one of our little trains to run you over.

Personally, I find it very interesting that people are surprised to learn that a bar is a public place.
First I would like to give some serious props to the author of the article for responding within twenty minutes of me sending the email. While there seems to be a bit of boilerplate in her response, it is a clear and well thought out response, although I do take umbrage with the implication that I do not know about the rough streets of Houston. Of course she then turns around and takes a piss out of Metro. That makes me happy.

It is clear to me that it is now time to go straight to the source on this. Through a little bit of digging I found out how to contact people directly at the TABC via email (sometimes websites are so helpful!) and I intend to email Carolyn Beck directly and ask if the agency is keeping records of the arrests and citations issued in connection with the sting operations and then comparing them to the DUI/DWI arrests in the area to see if the program is having a measurable effect. As soon as I get the email composed and sent I will post it here and of course post Ms. Beck’s response.

One last thing. Pete over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog finally weighed in on this issue, expressing much the same sentiment but, as always, in a much more concise and funny manner. Additional blogging about this issue can be found here.


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