Shoulder Tap operation is dispensable form of law enforcement

CITY ISSUES: Berkeley police crackdowns on underage drinking cause more harm than good.

Willow Yang/Senior Staff

Berkeley police employ a patrol strategy that involves creating problems to solve. The state’s Shoulder Tap Program, which deploys undercover agents to swindle people into buying alcohol for minors, is the latest in a list of contentious policies — and the most dispensable.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has cracked down on the city of Berkeley, allegedly claiming Cafe Durant as its most recent victim. The popular “Taco Tuesday” spot could find itself entombed next to Fat Slice and Remy’s, among other formerly licensed joints, forcing students to venture into the more dangerous Greek Row to reach a buzz.

The Shoulder Tap operation is not only ineffective in combating underage drinking — which, let’s be honest, won’t end anytime soon. It is also a huge waste of police resources. Efforts to protect students should target violent crimes in Berkeley, which increased by 17.9 percent from 2015 to 2016. Instead, police chose to enforce an archaic law and further targeted college students. But considering the intense rigor of UC Berkeley classes, we have it hard enough as is. Just let us have our booze.

The drinking age in the United States, higher than in most countries around the world, was arbitrarily chosen years ago and merits reevaluation. International students, for instance, face a strange transition when their home countries allow them to drink legally at younger ages.

By disempowering college students from buying alcohol at better-regulated locations such as bars and restaurants, the law actively pushes them to pursue alcohol at high-risk spaces, such as fraternities, where they are more exposed to binge-drinking, hard liquor and dangerous behavior. Fraternities have become so dangerous that in October, the Inter-Fraternity Council temporarily suspended social events. The Shoulder Tap operation sounds ridiculous because it is: Police are actively devoting time and attention to a nonviolent crime, all the while putting students in more danger.

Businesses that serve alcohol make the surrounding area safer by encouraging responsible social drinking late at night. If shoulder tapping is meant to keep underage students safe, then police should enforce the policy at fraternities. Police cannot eliminate free will, so they must reconsider a realistic solution to unsafe alcohol consumption.

Unfortunately, Berkeley Police Department has a misconstrued and self-defeating logic toward active policing that has extended to policies that criminalize homelessness. The city often justifies police disbandment of homeless encampments by claiming they encourage crime. But naturally, crime rates rise when homelessness is treated as a crime.

By criminalizing homelessness, shutting down bars and citing scapegoats, police only contribute to desolate streets ripe for crime and make college students more desperate for alcohol. No matter what the police do in Berkeley, underage drinking will continue, and the homeless will continue to exist. Expendable policing is not the answer.

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  • Marc

    “Just let us have our booze.”

    Agreed. They should allow an 18 drinking age on campus like the military does on its bases. Students gonna booze…campus cops and RA dicks just end up passing out underage tickets that can be financially devastating to a student that’s only has an extra couple of hundred of dollars to work with a month. And by making it illegal it just makes it more naughty so students are encouraged to go insane when they get their hands on the sauce.

    “The city often justifies police disbandment of homeless encampments by claiming they encourage crime.”

    Yeah, these encampments totally do. If you want to get real, do an independent study and go stay in one of those camps for three weeks. Nasty yourself up proper and don’t tell anyone you are a college student. You’ll change your tune real quick. Or, spend some time and actually talk to the officers (instead of shouting at them) policing those areas and their experiences doing so. They would most likely tell you all about it.

    Ha, it’s like in Berkeley you can’t just talk about something normal like getting busted for booze. Got to add something about an “oppressed” group.

  • lspanker

    The argument for lowering the drinking age to 18 may have had merit a half a century ago, when young men that age were subject to military conscription and the possibility of dying for their country. However, we no longer have a draft, and (no offense to young people in the Armed Forces), the level of maturity of your average 20-year-old these days (college campus or not) is on par with a 14-year-old back then. And come on, the typical underage drinker isn’t looking to savor a Pliny the Elder or a nice dry Napa Valley red with his or her evening meal. These overgrown children are intending to get sh!t-drunk on whatever alcoholic soda-pop beverage or adjunct-laden fortified swill they can keep down. ABC is quite aware that college students have their demographic of idiots who drink until they pass out (or worse) under the bizarre idea that it’s somehow “cool” or “fun”. I don’t often support bureaucratic government agencies, but I’m 100% behind this one…

  • flashsteve

    Apart from the dreadful writing and grammar of this piece, she fails to recognize the legitimate dangers of underage drinking. Does she propose Berkeley High School kids be allowed to drink at bars?

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