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.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.