Nevertheless, the word creeping out is of the problems of Picnic Day. Some people are talking about canceling the event (which is something the city cannot do anyway). Some are talking about cutting off booze in the downtown.
This is actually a misleading figure. There is an erroneous perception that statistics can be made to say anything you want – the truth is that with the proper analysis of statistics, taking into account more than two variables, statistics tell a pretty good story.
So, the story behind those statistics that show arrests up is that the key variable was not that there were more crimes committed, rather that enforcement was up. We had a much larger police force out there this year, they were told to crack down on drinking and other activities – and while there was some overkill, they did exactly that.
Because of the changed policy, comparing drinking-related arrests from last year to this year is close to comparing apples to oranges.
The key question was: was problem drinking up? Walking around there were clearly a few people drunk out of their minds. But they were a small contingent.
What about assaults, which fueled the concerns last year – were they up? No they were down.
There are complaints about destruction of property north of the safety area and reports that the whole scene is a nuisance to the downtown owners. I get that. But overall, there was a fairly mild scene.
A commentator wrote, “But no matter how you slice this thing, it was not a proud moment for a city that prides itself on creative solutions to the normal problems that sometimes plague city life.”
He continued, “Despite a full year of hand-wringing and game-planning and public awareness campaigns since last year’s disaster, the cold, hard numbers from Picnic Day 2011 are not encouraging.”
Was there an expectation that people would stop drinking at this event? If so, then people just had unrealistic expectations. I thought the goal of the increased enforcement was to prevent things from getting out of control as they did last year, and by that measure it worked.
He continued, “Even more troubling this year, there were nine arrests for driving under the influence, which basically means nine of these intoxicated revelers were driving a loaded weapon and were simply lucky they didn’t kill someone.”
That is a concern. On the other hand, there were few reports for drunk driving accidents that I know of that day. And the increased enforcement efforts probably led to preventing more problems.
You are of course free to disagree with me, but from my perspective walking around and actually looking for problems, I did not find a lot and the problems that were there were mild. The arrest figures reflect less about the actual number of crimes and more about the enforcement by authorities of those crimes. In fact, I would argue that those numbers were inflated somewhat by singling out people who were really not causing problems.
There was a good response by “a student” to that column.
The student wrote, “This is a very surface level argument. It’s pretty easy to simply glance at numbers and assume they can be easily compared to other years. However, a fuller understanding of the big picture is necessary, and should be expected out of people paid to write for future bird cage lining. The reason the citations and arrests were up, as explained by both campus and city policy, is that there were simply more police present and they had a stricter no tolerance policy. Increases were expected! The point was to increase minor infractions, and minimize the serious ones- which is exactly what happened. Yes, DUIs are problematic, but the majority of the citations and arrests were for minor crimes that were of minimal safety concern- over half were for open containers! And I’m sure you have opened a container before.”
Now, some people took issue with the statement that “DUIs are problematic.” But even that point is right on. The DUI stops are also preventative policy, preventing intoxicated individuals from driving those loaded weapons.
I have not seen anyone point out a single accident that was the result of drinking and driving on Saturday. I’m not saying there was not one, but I have not seen it.
The increased enforcement likely led to fewer people drinking and driving but more people being caught doing so.
The other point I would make is how few cars there actually were. Even at 4 pm, we had no problem finding a parking space right outside of the bars on G Street. Even at 7 pm and later at 11 pm, we had no problem finding parking outside of the Davis Graduate.
Far more people were walking than they were driving. That is a good thing.
The one real issue here, going forward, is what the businesses want to do. A lot of the non-bars simply closed down for Picnic Day. A lot of the places that didn’t had problems with destruction of property and messes in their restrooms.
That is certainly a problem that will have to be solved.
From my perspective, things went off pretty well. I think people’s sensibilities are out of whack here. I think a lot of older people are imposing their vantage point on the younger generation.
College students are going to drink. Do we want to make this a dry city on Picnic Day? Do we want to ban alcohol in the downtown area?
We can do that, but I think we are cutting off our noses to spite our faces. In the end, if the students want a day to drink, they are going to find one on their own without any help from the older folks.
The sad part of it all is that one reason for the problems is that the residents of this community were really not to be seen around town. They abandoned the streets and downtown to the drinking students. A larger mix of people probably diffuse what remains of the problems. But if people abandon the streets to the troublemakers, those people get free rein.
I do not have the perfect solution. I think eliminating Picnic Day or outlawing alcohol is an overreaction to a situation that was really well under control all day and all night.
—David M. Greenwald reporting