SPPD: Use Buddy System When Drinking
City’s Police Ask Residents to Ensure Friends Get Home Safe
By Brandi Makuski
Leaders from the Stevens Point Police Department (SPPD) say with crime on the rise locally, binge drinking still reigns as one of the city’s top law enforcement concerns.
“The bottom line of everything we’re talking about has one common denominator: binge drinking,” said Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder. “People drinking to the point where they don’t know what they’re doing or where they are.”
Ruder recently outlined 2012 police statistics before the City Council, which included sharp upturns in burglaries, drugs and juvenile crimes. Arrest rates also increased by 133 percent last year. Despite this increase, binge drinking brings unique problems into the community that, outside the act of public intoxication, aren’t necessarily crimes.
“We had just recently a 20 year- old who wandered off for five hours and by the time we found him he had a core temperate of 93,” said Assistant Chief Tom Zenner, who added the phenomenon of the “lone drunk” is becoming more common.
“It’s a phenomenon where I would say in the last five years we’ve seen more and more. Not the (increase in) binge drinking so much, but people binge drinking and then going off on their own. Back when we were on patrol, we didn’t see it really. It’s just happening way too frequently now.”
Zenner also said reports of lone, inebriated individuals have been reported in rural parts of the city, including Old Wausau Road, who are so drunk they believe they’re in another city.
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen five, ten years ago, but it was a lot less frequent; you had friends that made sure you got home and were taken care of,” Zenner said.
Zenner also said the binge drinking forces police officers to take on extra vigilance during night shifts.
“Now, instead of just watching for fights outside of Bruisers, you sit out at the bar time, at 3 AM, and see how many people are walking by themselves. It’s countless. I wouldn’t want my daughter walking home intoxicated by herself. It’s amazing how many people you see waking by themselves.”
Chief Ruder said one other concern of binge drinking comes with the frequency of these lone drunks breaking into someone else’s home, mistakenly believing it is there own. He added he’s worried one such person could be shot by a homeowner.
“We found one guy once who was curled up with a blanket in front of the fireplace- he actually started the fireplace,” Ruder said. “He had no idea it wasn’t his home.”
Ruder added the department is called 3-5 times annually for such break-ins, and it could be just a matter of time before a drunk individual is shot by an unsuspecting homeowner.
Using the buddy system, he said, could prevent that kind of incident from ever happening.
“Education is a big part of preventing this. Of course it is also the responsibility of the people themselves. But part of it is, unfortunately we educate with te tragedies we have had, and the near tragedies we’ve had,” Ruder said.
“We know underage drinking goes on, we’re not naïve to think we can stop everyone from underage drinking. but what we can do is not only educate about the hazards of binge drinking but also educate them to have a buddy. We talk about designated drivers, but I think we should also talk about designated walkers.”