MIPs, misplaced priorities
Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011 3:09 pm
"…The New Orleans Police Department's recent onslaught of minor in possession of alcohol tickets – more fondly known by the under-21 crowd as MIPs – has become a not-so-productive means of improving safety in the city.
These MIPs are given out by NOPD because of a grant that pays police officers overtime to patrol bars in search of underage drinkers, with the goal of preventing drunk driving related car accidents. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission funded this grant to the NOPD.
The effects of this crackdown around campus are a perfect example of why this program is an unproductive means of achieving its goals. Freshmen and sophomores don't drive themselves back to campus from The Boot or Maple Street. The vast majority of patrons at these bars live within walking distance.
Students have received these minor in possession tickets in the more touristy areas of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street as well, but transportation to these places typically means cabs or streetcars for young people. If the goal of this crackdown is to prevent drunk driving, further improving access to public transportation makes a lot more sense than targeting a small subset of the population with these tickets.
At Tulane, the problem is perhaps more personal than most places in the city. Every college campus in the United States has run-ins with underage drinking. Underage drinking at universities has been an occurrence – some may even say a rite of passage – which began in 1987 when the legal drinking age increased to 21. While this concern is important to many, Tulane is taking the right steps in providing its students with resources that allow them to make informed decisions about their own well-being.
Tulane has The WELL, a student-health promotion center that specializes in alcohol prevention and education. All incoming freshmen also take AlcoholEdu. The university's medical amnesty policy assures students that if a student does go beyond their limits, asking for help is still a good option. Tulane students have so many resources readily available: education, counseling and medical help if ever needed. NOPD should take a page from that outlook and prioritize the safety of its citizens over unproductive enforcement efforts and indiscriminate crackdowns.
The serious issues facing this city show that priorities matter in policing efforts. A report by the local NBC-affiliate WDSU in March found that the New Orleans homicide rate is 10 times the national average, making it the bloodiest city in America. Even worse, it reported that the New Orleans' homicide department "although dedicated and professional, is following dated practices and is understaffed to handle the volume of homicides in the city."
Regardless of where the funding for this crackdown is coming from, NOPD needs to carefully consider its resources and focus. It's obviously more important to renovate the homicide department and catch vengeful, cold-blooded killers than buzzing around Maple and Broadway Streets to hand out tickets to kids who are in an area with potentially one of the lowest drunk driving rate in New Orleans.
NOPD's crackdown is ineffective and counterproductive. Alcohol consumption among young adults has passed a point where tickets will serve as an effective deterrent, and those tickets do more harm than good. While the heightened emphasis on underage drinking enforcement may be well intentioned, it's also misguided. Instead of developing positive relationships with the community and focusing on the serious issues that face the city, NOPD is making its officers unnecessarily seem like enemies to young people when they should be seen as allies and advocates."
Samantha Halperin is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.