Thursday, March 19, 2009

Erin Go To Jail

Wearin' of the Pinstripes follows Saint Patrick's Day Revelry:

Even a Georgia home game doesn't pack the Clarke County Jail like Wednesday morning's St. Patrick's Day revelry, which ended for dozens of people when they pulled up to sobriety checkpoints authorities set up around downtown Athens.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, jailers had booked 65 people arrested by Georgia State Patrol troopers, according to the jail's Web site.

Of those arrests, 45 were on DUI charges, but troopers manning sobriety checkpoints pinched motorists on other charges, from unlicensed driving to cocaine possession.

Athens-Clarke and University of Georgia police officers charged 11 other people with DUI at other checkpoints.

Officers from the three agencies charged 13 people with offenses like underage possession of alcohol, possession of open container and public intoxication.

So all told, three different law enforcement agencies nailed approximately 100 people for drinking-related revelry on St. Patrick's Day here in Athens. Meanwhile, down the road in Savannah, which is ground zero for St. Patrick's Day in the U.S., the city hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors for its annual drunk fest/celebration, and a mere 23 arrests were made, which included the weekend prior to the holiday.

And what was that number again, of people busted on alcohol-related charges on home football game days here in Athens, when we have an influx of nearly 90,000 people into our environs?

On a busy weekend night - especially when fans flock to Athens to see the Bulldogs play at home - police typically make about a dozen DUI arrests, according to Athens-Clarke Magistrate Court Judge Charles Auslander.

"About a dozen." Couple of quick observations.

Number one, we are in a recession, in case you hadn't heard, and local and state governments are desperate to raise cash. If you do some quick math regarding bail, fines, and probationary fees, the St. Patrick's Day Shakedown here might pull in over half a million dollars to state and local coffers. Better than a tax increase, right?

Number two, similar county-wide dragnets are not set up on game days because it's simply bad for business. Bulldog Nation may tolerate a losing season or two, but it's doubtful DUI checkpoints nailing university benefactors and alumni after the game would be politically popular. But again, if you did some quick math, the numbers of potential DUI's and public drunkeness arrests after a home game (times 90,000 extra people) would be off the scale. Hundreds, perhaps more.

As I always stress in these discussions, none of this is to minimize the crime of DUI or suggest that these 100 people aren't, in fact, guilty. But for the same reason we should be critical of paramilitary police sweeps of poor or African-American neighborhoods (which inevitably turn up some number of crimes used as justification) we should be critical of these prejudicial roadblocks as well.

Number three, the local Athens-Clarke County jail continues to be a source of ignominy and embarrassment to the community.

Jail officials knew in advance about the St. Patrick's Day roadblocks and assigned an extra deputy to prisoner intake, but the Lexington Road lock-up still got overwhelmed.

A magistrate court judge held bond hearings Wednesday morning, but had to cancel a second round of hearings because so many people hadn't yet finished the booking process.

"I've never seen this many in Clarke County," Auslander said Wednesday afternoon. "They are still running criminal histories at the jail and catching up on paperwork for us to do bond hearings."

Only 24 of the people arrested by the patrol had made bond by late Wednesday afternoon.

Not only does that set the county up to be sued by those arrested who continue to languish in the jail unprocessed (and therefore wipe away the profit made), but it highlights further incompetence on behalf of the Sheriff's office which runs the jail. They were notified in advance of the planned sweep and brought in "an extra deputy for intake"? One?

After recently asking for and receiving an additional half million dollars to relieve overcrowding at the jail, the question is begged: how much longer before the Feds come in and have to assume jurisdiction over the jail?

But my favorite stories were at the end of the article.

Though a police report did not mention if alcohol was involved, a UGA student was arrested after he banged on the window of a North Lumpkin Street pizzeria, trying to get in at 2 a.m., and took a swing at an employee who told him the business was closed. The student, who was wearing a tall green and orange hat, was charged with disorderly conduct, Athens-Clarke police said.

Another intoxicated UGA student told police he was robbed of $72 by two men about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday while he counted money he had just withdrawn from an ATM at the corner of East Broad and North Thomas streets.

Just this week in criminology we were discussing Lifestyle and Routine Activities theories concerning victimization. If ever there were two, more perfect examples of increasing your chance of victimization, there you have it.

UPDATE: The Georgia State Patrol, under fire for its selective enforcement tactics, claims its "Operation Rolling Thunder" (groan) has also run game day checks in the past. "We got in locations where we wouldn't hinder the traffic flow because our priority on gameday is to move the traffic out," said a GSP spokesperson, who [also] said "troopers and police plan more gameday checkpoints this year." They also claim to have made "about 300 arrests" on previous game day roadblocks, though no news accounts seem to exist which can confirm this.


Charles said...

Hi. Great blog. Please check out the comments here:

as your name is mentioned.

“The function of the law is not to provide justice or to preserve freedom. The function of the law is to keep those who hold power, in power.”-Gerry Spence

Maybe some of Athens' law enforcement officers need to read Gerry Spence and Andrew P. Napolitano.

Todd Krohn said...

Charles, thanks for reading. I think, however, the point really isn't about law enforcement officers as it is power structures and where decisions get made. We can and should be critical of how these decisions get made, but directing our ire at the officers carrying out the orders is wrongheaded.

Skepticism of policy needs to be met with support on the street. As we were reminded this past week in Oakland (four officers killed, another clinging to life), they continue to pay the ultimate price for wearing the uniform.

Charles said...

Sir, I do not understand how you were able to assume that I am directing "ire" at some law enforcement officer (By the way Todd, I remember when cops were called Peace Officers, not law enforcement officers.) and that I am "wrongheaded." Todd, when we assume, we make an ass u me.

Todd, have you even read anything by Gerry Spence?

How is my inclusion of his quote "wrongheaded" and how can you assume that I am directing some "ire" at some law enforcement officer?

I myself do not drink alcoholic beverages. I am never been arrested. I myself have a doctor of education degree and I have worked as a member of the Georgia State Patrol. I also have a minor in sociology.

Todd, what about 88-year-old U.S. resident John Demjanjuk?

Todd, to defend someone in uniform as just "carrying out the orders" is so, for lack of another term, LAME!

I feel sorry for any of your students taking your class if your are making statements such as that.

Todd Krohn said...

Charles, the wrongheaded rap was in reference to the comment section on the paper's site, not yours.

However, I think it's a stretch to jump from GSP cops following orders at roadblocks to John Demjanjuk and the Nazis. I'm assuming you've heard of the Godwin's Law?

Inevitably, that's where discussions like this lead in internet forums, which is unfortunate.

The mutual suspicion and mistrust which exists between law enforcement and the public should be tempered and minimized. When it isn't, we get police abuse and/or law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Neither is acceptable, I'm sure you would agree.