Police department uses grant to combat unsafe drinking

John Hult

John Hult

A $10,000 federal grant administered by the state to the Brookings Police Department will be used to combat underage drinking and to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents, Brookings Police Chief Tim Tomkins said this week.

The grant will allow the department to pay officers about 400 hours in overtime to assist in setting up sobriety checkpoints, routine bar walk-throughs and house party raids.

“It’s not in place of what we’re doing, its just going to allow us to do more of it of it,” Tomkins said.

Tomkins said that an increase in alcohol-related fatalities and accidents is responsible for the grant.

The S.D. Office of Highway Safety statistics also show an increase in underage drinking, but Tomkins pointed out that the grant will allow his department to combat all unsafe drinking.

“We want to be proactive,” Tomkins said. “We want everybody to enjoy themselves, but we want to make sure everyone’s compliant with the law.”

SDSU Students’ Association President Dan Hansen said that the Students’ Association was unaware of the impending grant allocation.

“There was really no discussion about it at all,” Hansen said.

Hansen said that the increased enforcement will likely make little difference in student decisions regarding alcohol.

“Our thought is that they’re probably doing it to get more money by busting more people,” he said. “And they think that by busting more people that they can scare people into not drinking. Most times they’re just going to drink in different ways. “

Hansen said that safety ought to be the main concern for students when they decide to go out for a night on the town.

“If a students chooses to drink, they need to make sure they make good decisions. If they’re going to a house, make sure that they know the people who live there, make sure they have a way to get home, find a sober driver and they can rely on that person to stay sober and pick them up,” he said.

Junior sociology major Brandee Scott agreed.

“I try not to drive if I’ve been at a party,” Scott said.

Scott also pointed out that students worrying about the police should avoid parties when they see a lot of cars outside the house.

Scott thinks that the increased watchfulness of the police department could make a difference in student safety, citing an incident where police raided a house party she was attending.

“We did learn from that–we learned not to go to huge house parties,” she said. “All of my friends who have gotten DUIs and friends who have gotten into accidents are reasons to make sure that you have a sober driver.”

Chief Tomkins advised students who decide to throw house parties to be careful.

“It behooves you to make sure that you know who’s coming to your parties and that they are all of age,” Tomkins said.

Hansen said that anyone throwing a house party ought to be concerned with safety, as well.

“I really think that people throwing the house party, if they’re smart, will stay sober,” he said. “That way, if there are issues, your judgement won’t be affected.”