Editorial: Partnership not only group credited for drinking numbers dip


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The Partnership for Alcohol Safety — the University of Iowa’s and the city of Iowa City’s joint project to reduce high-risk drinking — issued its annual report Wednesday, and it found substantial reductions in problem drinking between 2009 and 2012.

The report, which drew on data from the 2012 National College Health Assessment, the Iowa City Police Department, and the UI Police Department, found that the percentage of students who had engaged in high-risk drinking in the most recent two weeks fell from 70.3 percent in 2009 to 64.1 percent in 2012.

The report also shows that the volume of downtown calls to the Iowa City police has fallen sharply. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of calls to the police concerning assault, criminal mischief and fighting fell.

The number of PAULA citations made by the two police forces fell by 46 percent between 2010 and 2012, from 901 to 485.

This good news offered by the report is a culmination of efforts from various organizations and institutions in the Iowa City community, including the Partnership for Alcohol Safety, massively contributing to the decline in high-risk drinking.

The partnership’s report listed downtown diversification, neighborhood “issues,” and legislative action as its three main areas of focus. Specifically in this point, the city has made increasingly positive gains in each category.

Downtown, the partnership is working to increase the number of non-bar tenants so students will have access to more sources of nonalcoholic entertainment. The partnership report notes that significant progress in underway in this area.

Though the change is far from complete, there are many projects underway that expand the menu of downtown bar-alternatives for students. The space once occupied by Vito’s is being turned into retail and cinema space. The Park@201 building going up at the site of the former Wells Fargo will include ground-floor retail space. The Chauncey, to be built at the intersection of College and Gilbert, will include a FilmScene cinema and a bowling alley.

The partnership’s actions on “neighborhood issues” has been largely confined to information gathering and public-relations campaigns, but the advocacy has led to developments like the City Council acting to strengthen the enforcement mechanism for disorderly house nuisances in Iowa City’s neighborhoods.

The partnership also pointed to a few pieces of legislation that have been put in place to curb high-risk drinking in the past year.

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division started a program called I-PACT (Iowa Program for Alcohol Compliance Training) in March 2012 to teach Iowa employees about responsible alcohol service. 

Though a Daily Iowan report found that I-PACT had little impact on the amount of alcohol served to minors in Iowa City, more than 1,300 Johnson County employees completed the training — a step in a positive direction for those employees and their employers.

University of Iowa Student Government also launched Safe Ride, a new means of emergency transportation for students.

As rates of alcohol use have fallen over the past few years, enforcement of liquor laws by the police have also risen. Arrests and judicial referrals for alcohol offenses increased substantially between 2009 and 2011, according to a 2012 report.

Kelly Bender, the university’s coordinator for campus-community harm-reduction initiatives, told the DI in October that stricter enforcement had been requested by many local groups and was also a possible cause of the uptick in alcohol arrests in 2010 and 2011.

We applaud the partnership for working to make the UI a better, safer place. There is reason to believe that it is making some progress, particularly downtown.

The partnership’s advocacy work, university collaboration, the downtown’s willingness to change, and increased police enforcement should be credited for the downward trend in alcohol use at the University of Iowa.

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