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Alcohol related arrests continue to decrease after liquor privatization

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It hasn’t. A year after Washington joined the majority of states in allowing the private sale of liquor, law enforcement data shows the worst predictions of opponents have not materialized.

According to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), most state alcohol-related arrests continue to trend downward, including in the first year since voters privatized state liquor sales. The private sale of liquor in Washington resumed on June 1, 2012. Washington State Patrol data shows there were 2,861 DUI collisions and 21,941 DUI arrests during the 2008-09 time period. Under the first year of privatization those numbers were down to 2,347 DUI collisions and 19,703 DUI arrests. Statistics for “minor in possession” showed an even bigger improvement with 1,483 cases between 2008-09 dropping to 777 during 2012-13. Though these improving numbers should not be correlated to privatization it is clear that private sales did not reverse the overall downward trend as opponents feared.

Another concern expressed by opponents of privatization was that private store employees would not be able to do as good of a job as the government stores in preventing sales to minors. Upon the passage of Initiative 1183 the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) touted the 94% compliance rate of no-sale-to-minors at state-run stores and said, “As the sale and distribution of liquor will soon be completely in the hands of the private sector, we hope it will treat this public safety responsibility with the utmost importance.”

Judging from the first year of data, the private sector has met this challenge. According to the WSLCB’s “Compliance Rates for Retailers Since 2012,” those stores with at least 10,000 square feet (as required by Initiative 1183) or former state contract stores have averaged just over a 92% compliance rate. The most recent check for August 2013 showed a compliance rate of nearly 94 percent. These numbers do not show a significant drop in compliance rates with private liquor sales.

Though concerns have been expressed about minors stealing liquor at private stores, hard data does not exist to document the extent of any problem. Recent legislative work sessions have focused on this question and retailers have testified that shoplifting prevention efforts has improved since private sales began.

Even with privatization, Washington State alcohol-related arrests have been trending down. This positive trend has not been reversed, as was predicted by privatization opponents.While more work can always be done to improve public safety, the data indicates the private sale of liquor has not resulted in an increase in the number of alcohol-related arrests.

While opponents may have exaggerated the potential public safety problems of liquor sale privatization, supporters underestimated the amount of revenue that would be generated from private liquor sales. This can partly be attributed to the fact that Washington State has the highest liquor taxes in the country. With most state alcohol related arrests decreasing, lawmakers may now want to consider whether liquor fees and taxes are too high.  Either way, the data shows that, as far as alcohol related arrests are concerned, liquor privatization in Washington is on a successful path.

 

Editor’s Note:Jason Mercier is the Government Reform director for Washington Policy Center, a research organization with offices in the Tri-Cities, Spokane, Olympia and Seattle. Online at www.washingtonpolicy.org This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 10/23/13. If you would like to respond to this story go to hometowndebate.com

 

Period (June to June)

DUI Collisions

DUI Arrests

Drink in Public

Interlock Device DUI

Open Container

Minor in Possession

Liquor to Minor

2008-09

2,861

21,941

19

447

2,223

1,483

57

2009-10

2,584

21,057

30

486

1,679

1,289

45

2010-11

2,586

22,227

41

595

1,469

989

41

2011-12

2,576

21,577

30

778

1,382

1,010

26

2012-13

2,347

19,703

42

917

1,106

777

19

 

 

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