August 16, 2004
Preempting Harm Reduction
Last year, the Naperville Illinois City Council attached penalties to an ordinance prohibiting under-21 folks from attending parties where alcohol was served. From an article by Anna Johnson in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Naperville … already prohibited minors from attending drinking parties, but last year the City Council changed the wording to create a specific ordinance to ticket minors at the parties who aren’t drinking.
City officials say the strict rule is meant to protect minors by targeting unsupervised teen parties.
”We’re trying to be involved in the situation and recognize the tragic and sometimes horrific outcomes of these underage parties,” said Naperville Police Lt. Dave Hilderbrand. ”We’re trying to take a bit more of an ambitious step.”
It’s not making sense to Rob at the Say Anything Blog.
At The Right Spin, Adam noted in June that the ordinance inadvertantly targets designated drivers:
Nineteen year old Julie Beata has received two citations from the city police. Both times she was not drinking but she was picking up her friends who [had] been drinking…
I guess now, the only way for underage drinkers to get home is to either walk (public drunkenness) or drive (DUI).
Vouchey at the Chicagoist also pointed out in June:
Naperville, a town that seems to have little for their police to do, is acting a bit silly, we think. And we wonder if there are better ways to combat underage drinking other than issuing college and high school kids fines.
These are the difficult, but necessary, sorts of conflicting interests we face when considering the use of harm reduction: How to reduce risks and direct harms through pragmatic balancing of costs and benefits.
The sometimes horrific outcomes are real and devastating to families. In a perfect world, harm might be eliminated by preventing under-21 folks from drinking, but effective enforcement mechanisms for that are simply not available. Given that harm-free solutions are not viable, harm reduction principles encourage us to strike a balance for protecting health and life, like:
- Encouraging under-21 folks not to drink regardless of what their friends are doing (like those that have been ticketed already).
- Setting firm never-drink-and-drive standards.
- Teaching adults and under-21 folks about alcohol safety and the thresholds of safe, risky, and dangerous drinking.
The city has called for a public hearing on the issue next month. Questions have been raised about the constitutionality of penalizing being present where drinking occurs. Some parents are upset that their young adult children are punished despite being responsible; one city official blames parents for not controlling their kids through age 20:
”We don’t want them in the presence of others committing crimes,” [Naperville’s city attorney Frank] Cuneo said. ”If parents did their jobs, we wouldn’t need this ordinance.”
Like someone could have "controlled" me at 20. (Or 19, or 15 for that matter.) Let's just go ahead and ticket the passengers in cars when the driver gets a speeding ticket. After all, there they are, sitting calming beside someone committing a crime. Urrrgh!!!
16-Aug-2004 01:49 PM
Yeah, it occurs to me that this little ditty (Thanks, Thump!) fits the topic:
A couple goes on vacation to a fishing resort in northern Minnesota. The husband likes to fish at the crack of dawn, the wife likes to read. One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap.
Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and continues to read her book. Along comes a game warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says,
"Good morning Ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," She replies, (Thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a restricted fishing area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry officer, but I'm not fishing, I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am", and he left.
16-Aug-2004 02:03 PM
29-Apr-2005 02:22 AM
10-May-2005 02:56 AM