College Station judge expresses concern over increase of underage drinking-related cases
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A recent study revealed that Texas boasts the 10th lowest percentage of underage drinking in the nation.
This research, conducted by addiction recover resource Addiction Treatment Magazine, analyzed data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, based on the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The study focused on young people aged 12 to 20 who consumed alcoholic beverages in the past month, and engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming four or more drinks in a single sitting.
However, in College Station, concerns are growing about underage drinking, as indicated by data released by the College Station Municipal Court. That data showed a significant increase in citations, making it the highest in the state.
In a memo and report submitted to College Station city leaders, presiding Judge Edward J. Spillane III of the College Station Municipal Court reported that 996 cases of underage alcohol possession were processed over the past year. He says what’s even more alarming is that the vast majority of these violations originate from a single area, The Northgate Entertainment District.
“The source is mostly the Northgate entertainment area. 99%,” said Spillane. “This past Monday we had 65 cases filed, and that is much more than is normal.”
Court documents indicate that since January 2022, there have been 1,059 citations for underage alcohol possession in and around the Northgate entertainment district. This number is double that of Austin, Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, Denton, South Padre and Galveston combined.
Judge Spillane’s memo detailed his analysis, stating, “I arrived at this conclusion by examining the number of cases filed at various courts in different cities over the course of a year: Austin (6 cases), Bryan (33 cases), Dallas (64), Denton (139), Galveston (89), Houston (3), Georgetown (6), Lubbock (193), Round Rock (22), South Padre (113) and Waco (12). I also reviewed justice of the peace courts, which handle alcohol beverage code cases, and none of them had anywhere near the volume of alcohol beverage code cases as ours.”
“I understand we have a lot of college kids, and A&M is one of the biggest universities. However, you know, Austin’s a pretty big city, has lots of college kids, Denton, Lubbock, and we have six to seven times the numbers.”
Judge Spillane also notes that larger cities like Houston and Austin opt to use sobering centers instead of citations or jail. Despite differing trends in other cities, he says the trends being seen here are concerning.
“Every judge I’ve talked to is shocked that we have the most in the state of Texas. I mean, that just, you know, and I understand we have a lot of college kids, and A&M is one of the biggest universities. However, you know, Austin’s a pretty big city, has lots of college kids, Denton, Lubbock, and we have six to seven times the numbers,” said Spillane.
“Some are shocked that there’s such a high concentration of offenses that are occurring in one place and so many underage kids can go to those places where alcohol is available freely,” Spillane added.
College Station Police say they’ve ramped up their presence in response to issues such as underage drinking, primarily fueled by fake IDs and alcohol purchases for minors, and are working with bars to crack down on violators.
“We have our officers that are out doing bar checks and making sure everybody stays safe and understands that underage drinking is not going to be tolerated here in College Station,” said College Station Police Public Information Officer David Simmons.
Simmons attributed many of these issues to young adults possessing fake IDs or someone buying alcohol on their behalf.
“Students and young adults are increasingly using fake IDs or having others purchase alcohol for them, leading to a significant rise in such cases,” Simmons said.
Officer Simmons said the police department’s approach goes beyond issuing citations; It involves education and ensuring the safety of all individuals. This includes partnerships with bar staff to offer classes on recognizing fake IDs and identifying individuals attempting to tamper with age stamps.
Judge Spillane emphasized his desire for a collective effort to address the root causes and prevent law violations.
“I’m confident that bar owners, the city, the police, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission all share the goal of prevention,” Spillane said. “While I would be pleased if we didn’t have to file cases, a thorough investigation is warranted into why we’re seeing such high numbers in specific areas, particularly the Northgate district.”
Below is the portion of the memorandum related to underaged alcohol concerns sent from Judge Spillane to the College Station City Council on 9/8/23.
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