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Police calls to liquor-licensed establishments dip; figures can be misleading

Feb 24, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Riverton Police Department reported a slight increase in calls for service for 2013. Last year, the department handled 13,829 calls, while in 2012 it handled 13,750 calls.

Out of the 13,829 calls in 2013, 638 were at locations with a liquor license and accounted for 4.6 percent of the total call volume.

That's down sharply from 2012, when liquor license holders ac-counted for 8 percent of the total calls for RPD action service. That equates to 1,100 calls.

By the numbers

The 638 calls to liquor establishments ranged from shoplifting complaints to fights or reports of intoxicated drivers.

The numbers on such calls are useful, but they can paint an inaccurate picture.

For example, Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead reported to the council in a memorandum that some locations with liquor licenses, such as grocery stores, generate police calls that are not related to the liquor license but get tracked by address anyway and are included in the report.

The department does not have a system to extract the specific in-formation from the police report unless each report is looked into individually.

The number of calls for 2013 does not include Walmart, which got its liquor license relatively late in the year.

RPD responded to 351 calls at Walmart in 2013 but Broadhead doubts many were related to the liquor license, perhaps none at all.

Better software?

The chief said a different software system would be helpful in separating the liquor store from the main address. Some calls are reported at the address of the establishment but can take place at the parking lot and have nothing to do with liquor business.

Not all liquor-licensed establishments generate police calls. The Riverton Elks Club at 207 E. Main St., and Pizza Plus oat 201 E. Washington Ave. had none. Others had five or fewer calls.

Response figures

The Maverik Country Store at 601 S. Federal Blvd. generated 108 calls, the most among the 32 establishments that hold liquor licenses, but only 42 were related to public intoxication or alcohol offenses.

The Rocky Mountain Discount Liquor store at 709 N. Federal Blvd generated 65 calls. Again, the precise effect of the liquor business can't be determined, because calls from the adjacent sporting goods store were included in that number. Approximately 34 of those calls were related to public intoxication or alcohol offenses.

The Safeway store reported 48 total calls, River City Bar reported 44 calls, Pizza Hut and Smith's Food and Drug both generated 43 calls, Bomber's Sports Bar reported 41 calls, and The Boot Bar generated 35 calls. All other liquor license holders generated fewer calls.

Liquor licenses

The city clerk's office received applications this year for 22 retail liquor licenses, three for club liquor licenses, and seven for restaurant liquor licenses.

The Riverton City Council approved all 32 applications Tuesday during the regular meeting, the same number approved the previous year.

The city stands to earn roughly $39,000 from application fees and an undetermined amount of sales tax not yet received from approval of these licenses. Renewal of licenses is required each year by the establishment.

Point system

The Fremont County Prevention Coalition organized a checklist proposal to liquor establishments that they could follow. It could be used a factor in determining approval of the license by the city council.

The Fremont County Prevention Coalition includes community organizations, city council members, and liquor establishment owners. The group worked on the checklist for six months and handed it to the Fremont County Liquor Dealers Association for review.

The "Alcohol Demerit Point System" is meant to help the FCLDA show how their establishments are handling negative alcohol issues, and showing improvement if a problem is identified.

The FCLDA responded with 13 concerns regarding the point system, arguing that it was unnecessary to implement.

FCLDA stated that implementing the checklist would not make a difference to the real problem of the "habitual alcoholics roaming the parks and trails."

In addition the dealers said they would not consent to "any kind of monitoring" by an outside group.

They added that they uphold the laws in place, pay fines, keep daily journals of any incidents, are not being recognized for the good they do, and are helping with DUI prevention by offering rides to their patrons who may have had too much to drink.

Coalition response

The prevention coalition replied to the liquor dealers' objections by citing statistics from the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center Epidemiological report that stated 1,058 drunkenness arrests for adults were reported in Fremont County in 2013, and 22 were youth.

It reported that 31 people died as a result of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, and that youths in grades 6-8 and 10-12 are reporting drinking alcohol or have attended a community function where adults are intoxicated.

The coalition said the point system would permit "local governing bodies the ability to make well-informed, objective decisions concerning liquor license renewal or transfer."

The group also predicted that that working together in the community with the liquor dealers would help provide more positive recognition for the dealers.

Upon request from the police department, the FCLDA did agree to calling the Riverton Police Department earlier when there is a disturbance in order to make it less likely that a problem would escalate.