Police patrolling campus streets and not bars increases safety

Drinking underage, however illegal, has been a part of collegiate communities for years. It’s not difficult to spot underage drinkers at local bars on the weekends.

But crimes committed less frequently or blatantly in the area – robbery, burglary or assault, for example – should be the focus of law enforcement efforts. And according to reports by the News-Gazette, the Champaign Police Department has begun to focus on those offenses.

The department has delegated officers that would have participated in bar checks to street crimes in the Campustown area, which has contributed to an almost $120,000 dip in revenue for the city court system compared to last year.

According to the News-Gazette, 52 underage drinking citations were issued at some of our more-frequented campus bars one weekend: Joe’s, White Horse, Geovanti’s, Murphy’s, Brother’s, Legends, Illini Inn and Chester Street Bar. Those issued an underage drinking citation received a $300 fine.

Multiply 52 by 300 and that’s about $15,600 going toward the Champaign city court revenue. That’s a large number, but we believe the trade off between the lost revenue and the safety of the student body and other patrons of area bars is worth it.

Campus safety has significantly increased, and crime has decreased during the past year, according to numbers released earlier this semester. There’s no doubt it’s because police have devoted additional resources.

Police are entrusted with keeping residents of their community safe, and it’s only understandable that keeping underage kids away from alcohol would be a concern. But we’re less worried about underage drinkers than walking home alone late at night or being robbed on campus streets.

Eliminating bar checks altogether isn’t our goal either. They serve as a key form of regulation for necessary restrictions on the businesses themselves, as well as the patrons that line up each weekend to get inside.

In fact, the most common argument for maintaining a 19-and-over entry level is the relative safety of a licensed bar compared to a house party.

Underage students will find a way to drink no matter what the police do. It’s not necessarily an unstoppable crime, but we’d rather have a safe campus than a dry one.

While the two may correlate, the police should continue to focus on street crimes, including burglary, robbery and assault. They’re more preventable than underage drinking incidents, and, in the end, we’ll feel safer living in Campustown.