Chief vows to use ‘every tool available’

Chief vows to use 'every tool available' by David Lias Vermillion Police Chief Art Mabry told the Vermillion City Council Monday night that his department "will continue to use every method at our disposal to control underaged drinking."

Mabry's statement was, in part, a response to criticism he and the police received at the June 2 city council meeting. Several local retailers voiced concern about the two beer stings held in the community in late March and early May.

Mabry noted that one out of four businesses sold beer to agents in the first compliance check. The second check had a 22 percent failure rate, and had to be terminated early, he said, when the driver's licenses of the two agents were destroyed by one of the Vermillion businesses.

"I'd say that's a problem," Mabry said of the failure rate. He also referred to a fraternity party earlier this year that resulted in the arrests of 60 minors for alcohol consumption.

"Now we've got the business owners pointing at the bars and house parties as the real problem. The only time I've seen these three groups in agreement is when the police department upholds our responsibility to the entire community and initiates enforcement.

"Then they are united in attempting to turn the attention from their violations and responsibility to allegations that attempt to discredit the enforcement effort."

According to police department statistics, 270 people were cited for underage consumption in 2001. There were 200 arrests made for driving while intoxicated and there were 17 alcohol-related accidents resulting in two deaths in the Vermillion/Clay County area.

Statistics compiled for police activity on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from September 2002 to April 2003 show a total of 457 arrests. Thirty-two of those arrests are for DWI. Half of those DWI arrests were of individuals 18 to 20 years old. The other half were 21 or older.

Alcohol violations for those three days during that time period totaled 173. The number of individuals aged 20 and under who were arrested totaled 167.

Only six individuals above the age of 21 were arrested.

"The purpose of compliance checks is not to target any specific businesses," Mabry said. "The only businesses that will be specifically checked will be those that failed the previous check. Otherwise the checks are random in both their scope and nature."

He added that compliance checks aren't the solution to the community's underage drinking problem.

"It's one enforcement tool that the courts have ruled is clearly legal and is used throughout the country by law enforcement agencies," he said. "We have demonstrated our willingness to work with the community and have utilized other tools such as bar checks and DWI checkpoints."

Mabry said the main reason local businesses failed the recent stings is carelessness.

"I suspect because the compliance checks hadn't been recently conducted that the stores and restaurants became complacent," he said. "That's demonstrated by the fact that they had stopped obtaining the TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management) training which was continued to be available through the sheriff's department."

He urged all components of the Vermillion community � from law enforcement and businesses to schools and civic groups � to work on finding solutions to the underage consumption problem.

Methods of achieving that goal, Mabry said, may lie in establishing a MADD chapter in Vermillion, and expanding the presence of the school resource officer.

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