DUI Arrests Down in WA State After Privatization of Liquor Sales Last Year
One year after the state of Washington privatized their liquor sales, raw data from the Washington State Patrol shows that DUI arrests are not going up, as some people feared, but seem to be trending downward.
The Washington Policy Center, an independent, nonpartisan think tank, extrapolated the data. The center looked at data on DUI arrests from the 2008-2009 fiscal year, and compared it to data from the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
“When the initiative (to privatize liquor sales) was being debated, I think there was some scare tactics being used with the public,” said Paul Guppy with The Washington Policy Center.
On June 1, 2012, Washington State’s 78 year monopoly on liquor sales ended after Bill 1183 became law, and private businesses were allowed to sell hard alcohol.
“I think they were reaching for the most dramatic prediction they could make, that kids would get alcohol, that the roads would be more dangerous and, again, it was a kind of scare tactic that was used but we’re finding that the numbers show that that hasn’t turned out to be the case,” Guppy added.
The Washington Policy Center found that DUI arrests were actually down 10%, based on the Washington State Patrol’s data. DUI related collisions were down 18%, and minors in possession of alcohol fell 47%.
“We would certainly agree that the sky isn’t falling, but we think it is problematic to draw this conclusion from these numbers,” State Patrol spokesman Robert Calkins said.
Complicating the DUI data is the fact that the Washington State Patrol is also down 80 troopers. That limits the number of arrests simply because there are fewer officers on patrol.
“When you’re short of troopers, it’s now the troopers you have left have to go to more collisions, more disabled vehicles, they don’t have time to do the kind of proactive patrol that you can go out and arrests DUIs for. So the shortage of troopers has an impact on remaining troopers,” Calkins said.
However, Guppy challenged Calkins’s response, saying that DUI arrests were up in 2010, despite law enforcement having even fewer officers than they did for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
“The overall big picture of it is where you buy your liquor, whether you buy it at a government store or a private store, there is not a correlation whether it’s going to result in a DUI or an arrest,” said Washington Policy Center Director Jason Mercier.
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