To Lower Crime At Colleges, Eliminate Underage Drinking Laws


I’ve long been an advocate for getting rid of age restrictions on alcohol consumption. By postponing the ability of younger Americans to use alcohol until age 21 – a ridiculous age given that you can vote, buy guns and be trained to kill by the US military by age 18 – we’re simply protracting the length of time our kids act like kids with alcohol. It would be better, I think, to eliminate the laws and allow these kids to be introduced to alcohol at younger ages, and under the guidance of their parents.

Current laws promote clandestine, and often dangerous, binge drinking. Eliminating the laws would bring that drinking into the sunlight, and promote healthier attitudes.

Plus, underage drinking laws are sucking up a lot of taxpayer resources. According to an analysis of Department of Education numbers about liquor law infractions at Fargo and Grand Forks-area schools finds that they constitute 89% of campus crime. That’s well above the national average of 66%, which is in and of itself a high number:

An analysis of campus crime data reported to the Department of Education shows, on average, 89 percent of incidents at these colleges and the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks from 2005-2011 were arrests, citations and disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations.

In 2011, the most recent year comparable data is available, 88 percent of incidents reported at these colleges were liquor law violations.

When I first read this report, I misunderstood the numbers. I thought they were talking about the percentage of all crimes that involved alcohol, but they’re not. The percentage is the total number of specific alcohol infractions. In fact, the higher percentage for alcohol crimes at the North Dakota/Minnesota campuses is a direct result of those campuses having a smaller number of other crimes.

“The local percentage is driven up by fewer reports of burglary, sexual assault or manslaughter as on other college campuses across the country,” reports the Fargo Forum.

Put simply, a lot of the crime at these North Dakota/Minnesota campuses would evaporate if we eliminated policies that criminalize alcohol use.

When America tried, as a nation, to outlaw alcohol use what we saw was Americans develop even more dangerous relationships with alcohol. The underground drinking promoted crimes and social ills far worse than the legal drinking had previously.

On a smaller scale, the same is true of alcohol prohibition on our campuses. Like it or not, we can’t stop these kids from drinking, so why not bring the drinking into the daylight? Allow these kids to face the issue of alcohol earlier in their lives, stop pushing these kids to cloak-and-dagger methods for obtaining and consuming alcohol, and I think we’d see a healthier attitude about alcohol in general.