Sunday, September 17, 2017

TL;DR Drunk in Public

Posted By on Sun, Sep 17, 2017 at 10:02 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERIC MUELLER
  • Photo by Eric Mueller
Didn’t have time to read this week’s cover story? We get it. Summer just disappeared in a blink and now it's time to get ready for one of those famous rainy Humboldt winters. If you'd rather spend the weekend winterizing the house than catching up on current events, we put together a quiz from week's cover story, "Drunk in Public," with charts!

TRUE OR FALSE? It's illegal to be drunk in public.


FALSE. California's public intoxication law — Penal Code Section 647f — says that to meet the legal threshold, a person must be so intoxicated that he or she presents a danger to his or her own safety or the safety or others, or be obstructing the use of a street, sidewalk or other public way.

TRUE OR FALSE? We have a lot of people being arrested for being drunk in public.

TRUE. Of all arrests made by all local law enforcement agencies in 2017, 21 percent were of people for being drunk in public. Almost one-quarter of all arrests in 2016 — 24.1 percent — were 647fs. And in 2015 — the last year for which statistics are available through the California Attorney General's Office — we arrested people for public intoxication at a rate of more than three times the state average. In fact, in 2015, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests despite having just 0.4 percent of its population.
click to enlarge In 2015, 7 percent of California's adult arrests were for public intoxication, compared to 23 percent of Humboldt County's. That year, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests though it is home to just 0.4 percent of the state's population.   - SOURCE: THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S  OFFICE, THE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE AND THE U.S. CENSUS.
  • Source: The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the California Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Census.
  • In 2015, 7 percent of California's adult arrests were for public intoxication, compared to 23 percent of Humboldt County's. That year, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests though it is home to just 0.4 percent of the state's population.

TRUE OR FALSE? We have a high rate of drunk in public arrests because we have a college nearby.


FALSE. Our analysis of the data reveals that most of these arrests are people who are what some call "chronic inebriates" — people arrested over and over again for alcohol or drug related offenses. Of the 182 August arrests the Journal analyzed, almost exactly one-third — 56 — were of repeat offenders, a handful of people arrested twice or more in the same month for public intoxication.

"The majority of those we're talking about aren't somebody that got too drunk on their 21st birthday, that's more the exception than the rule," says Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman. "The normal is the chronic inebriate, cycling through over and over and over again."

click to enlarge Repeat offenders: 56 of the 182 drunk in public arrests are the same 22 people (one third of the arrests). - SOURCE: THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE'S BOOKING RECORDS.
  • Source: The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office's booking records.
  • Repeat offenders: 56 of the 182 drunk in public arrests are the same 22 people (one third of the arrests).

TRUE OR FALSE? Jail is the best place to sober up.

FALSE. While law enforcement officers are often the only point of contact for chronic inebriates, they and others agree that correctional facilities aren't the best treatment option for this public health problem. Each arrest also takes an officer off the street for at least an hour, and up to four or six hours if the person needs to be seen at the hospital. Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel and others are currently looking at establishing a sobering center in Eureka, where people who just needed to sleep it off could be dropped off by officers without legal ramifications. There, they would be monitored by trained staff and offered access to services. Support for a sobering center seems to be universal among those affected by this issue.
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Linda Stansberry

Bio:
Linda Stansberry is a staff writer of the North Coast Journal.

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