Underage Drinking: Success Stories

         

Underage

Drinking: Success Stories

 

 

Alaska

November

14, 2001

 

Scope

of Problem

Prevention

Strategies

Learn

More

Success

Stories

Selected

Resources

 

With

support from the OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative,

community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned

citizens are working collaboratively to change local ordinances and

enforcement practices.

 

The

Anchorage

Way

:

Citizens Use Permit Process to Prevent Harm

Citizens

in

Anchorage

,

Alaska

have seized on alcohol licensing as a way to reduce alcohol-related harm. 

Their efforts are a lesson in civic activism and for everyone

concerned about problem drinking.

In

Alaska

,

local governments decide where alcohol outlets are allowed to open. 

Alaskan law sets a fixed number of permits for the state; anyone

wishing to sell alcohol must first purchase a permit from a current

permit-holder. The state approves the permit, but local government must

approve the location of the outlet.  In

Anchorage

,

the eleven-member City Assembly makes those decisions, and has

traditionally done so with little community input.

This

began to change in the 1980s, with a health worker named Joan Diamond. 

Recognizing that alcohol contributes to many of the problems facing

Anchorage– Diamond estimates that a full third of the city?s budget is

spent on alcohol-related problems– she discerned the need to address

consumption in

Anchorage

. 

She found inspiration in Wittner?s ?Manual for Community

Planning to Prevent Problems of Alcohol Availability.? 

The book led to two insights; first, that alcohol outlets are

associated with increased levels of violence, crime, underage drinking,

traffic crashes, and fatalities, and, second, that permit processes can be

used to control the availability of alcohol.

To

prove that the former was true for

Anchorage

,

Diamond mapped the location of every alcohol outlet in the city. 

She overlaid that map with traffic and crime data, making the

correlation between outlet density and alcohol-related problems

immediately clear.  Diamond

then took her case to the communities of

Anchorage

. 

Using her maps, she demonstrated the adverse consequences

associated with alcohol retailers, and encouraged them to use the

permitting process to block alcohol outlets in their neighborhoods.

Armed

with this knowledge, communities embraced the permit process and since

have achieved notable success.  One

community blocked the conversion of an old fast-food outlet to a liquor

store. Another com-munity kept a former pizza restaurant from being

converted to a liquor store in a block that included a work-to-welfare

center, a day care, and an unemploy-ment office. 

Concerned residents have twice blocked a proposed convenience store

permit.

While

the increased community involvement has lead to success, the City Assembly

still retains the final say over permit locations, and has overruled

residents? objections in some cases. 

But under increasing pressure, city and state agencies are now

working together to look at future ordinances that will address the

health, safety, and economic impact of alcohol sales in the city of

Anchorage

. 

The change has come about because concerned citizens engaged their

local government.  ?Local

control is easier,? says Diamond, ?local government is more sensitive

to the community.?

For

more information, contact Joan Diamond by phone at 907-343-6583, or by e-mail:

[email protected], or Will Hurr, Coordinator for

Alaska

,

by phone at 907-465-2116 or by e-mail: [email protected].

 

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