Our Views: 'Do not serve' list could help city, those on list

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Monday, July 29, 2013

To those concerned about the public ridicule that habitual drunks on the Janesville Police Department's new “do not serve” list might face, we have a response:

Maybe it's due.

Anyone who drinks so excessively that he or she often requires police and emergency services—funded by your tax dollars—deserves public admonishment. Let's hold them accountable. Perhaps the exposure will prompt these folks to get the help they so desperately need.

Janesville isn't the first city to implement such a list. Madison, for example, has had one for several years.

In a similar move, Janesville police a few years ago launched Project Sober Streets, an online database that pinpoints the homes of residents with five or more drunken driving convictions. That's right—not two or three or even four but at least five convictions. When unveiled, the project listed a staggering 192 such individuals living in our city.

We have a drinking problem.

That project, as well as other programs such as gang intervention efforts and this new initiative, are examples of the department encouraging officers to not just respond to calls but think deeper and come up with solutions designed to reduce calls for service. Police Chief David Moore says officer Joe McNally came up with the “do not serve” idea, then researched and presented it to him.

 The “do not serve” list names 10 people who have required police services because of intoxication at least three times in the past six months. We're talking about trips to jail or detoxification facilities, or needing a ride to a friend's house because the person was too inebriated to be out and about. All such contacts drain police time from other needs, and some of these people have had many more than three contacts.

Each of the people got a letter explaining the list. This week, taverns and liquor stores—but not restaurants—are also getting explanatory letters. The latter letter includes names, ages, heights, weights and seven of the 10 photos. The Rock County Tavern League deserves credit for working with police to ensure the policy isn't too difficult to enforce rather than fighting it.

Police say they will review the list every six months and add more names as needed and drop those who stop using police services. Authorities should make sure the next list includes addresses in case Janesville has more than one resident with the same name.

To those critics who suggest this measure is Draconian, realize that businesses have the right to refuse service to problem customers, and bars have been booting troublemakers since tapping that first keg. Also, businesses are encouraged but not required to refuse service to those on the “do not serve” list. Businesses won't face fines for ignoring the list, though they might wind up answering for repeated noncompliance before the city's alcohol licensing committee.

Sure, the people on the list might just find their fixes of alcohol elsewhere. This list, however, is another weapon in the toolbox of options for pushing the worst of the worst toward sobriety—and reducing police calls for service.

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