Police make 'no serve list' of problem drinkers

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Nico Savidge
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

JANESVILLE—A small group of heavy drinkers in Janesville use a disproportionate amount of city resources, authorities say, and end up requiring emergency services far more often than the average resident.

Now, Janesville police want to cut them off.

To reduce the burden that a handful of residents create, police are asking bars, liquor stores and any businesses that sell alcohol to stop serving those residents under a new policy announced Tuesday.

Inspired by similar rules in other Wisconsin cities, Janesville police have spent months identifying problem drinkers and working with bar owners, officer Joe McNally said.

The result is a list of 10 residents McNally said have had regular contact with police and who authorities hope will no longer be served by area bars or stores.

Bar owners probably already know who their problem customers are, Wiggy's Saloon owner Patrick Wygans said, and the policy should help them.

“It will keep troublemakers out of your bar,” Wygans said.

By restricting their access to alcohol, police hope the people on their “no serve list” will get into trouble less often, freeing up police and emergency resources, McNally said.

“Ultimately, if they want to get alcohol, they're going to,” he said. But, “hopefully, they'll look at this behavior and change it.”

Jail, detox get drinkers on list

The 10 people who now find themselves on the list got there after having at least three “negative police contacts in which they were intoxicated” over a six-month period, McNally said.

Those contacts include trips to jail or detox, McNally said, or even less formal interactions such as an officer driving someone to a friend's house when he or she is too drunk to be out.

All of those situations cost money and resources to police and emergency services, McNally said. He points out that a trip to detox runs about $400, not counting the cost of police taking someone there or the medical clearance that person must receive from a doctor before going.

Each person on the list has received a letter from police telling him or her as much, McNally said.

“Your unwillingness or inability to drink responsibly is causing the Janesville Police Department to dedicate an unfair and unequal amount of resources to your habitual intoxication,” reads a copy of one letter provided to The Gazette.

“We will be asking all licensed establishments in the city to … refrain from selling or giving you alcohol.”

The letter also gives the person an opportunity to appeal the decision to the city Alcohol License Advisory Committee.

Authorities will review the list every six months, McNally said. If someone does not have three police contacts in those six months, the person will be dropped from it, he said.

“If they continue to drink responsibly, we don't have any problem with that,” McNally said.

Voluntary, but encouraged

Police this week are distributing to all licensed alcohol vendors a letter and the no serve list. The policy does not apply to businesses licensed as restaurants.

The letter includes two pages detailing the names, ages, heights and weights of the 10 people on the list. Seven of the names have mug shots accompanying them.

“In order to make Janesville a safer community, the Janesville Police Department is asking you to refuse to sell or serve alcoholic beverages to individuals on the list,” the department wrote in its letter.

Businesses are not required to comply with the policy and won't face a fine if they sell to someone who's barred, McNally said.

If businesses consistently disobey, however, their cases could be referred to the alcohol licensing committee, McNally said.

Rock County Tavern League President Sharen Hoskins, who owns East Point Sportz Pub, said her organization worked with police to make sure the policy wouldn't be too difficult to enforce for bar owners.

She guessed it would supplement bars' “personal no serve list” of people who have been kicked out for bad behavior in the past.

“It's going to be the worst of the worst,” Hoskins said. “We're not talking about the average drinker—we're talking about people who quite frankly, perhaps, shouldn't be drinking.”

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