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Bemidji Police to Crack Down on Underage Drinking

Alex Schlee | Staff Writer | 10-29-12

As with many college towns, the problem of underage drinking amongst younger students is a prevalent issue for the Bemidji Police Department. This year, the BPD will take some extra action in attempt to stifle underage drinking on BSU premises. A rumor has been going around campus recently in regard to exactly how the police will accomplish this.

The word has been that the Bemidji police’s measures against drinking amongst minors will involve breathalyzer tests at the Oak Hall doors and other freshman dorms on weekend nights. Members of the Bemidji police have discredited this rumor, stating that such an act would be unwarranted.

“If [an officer] sees an individual believed to be under the influence, they will be tested. . .but we need probable cause,” said Sergeant Dave Markert of the BPD, explaining that police officers cannot just approach students and demand a breathalyzer without reason.

In addition to the idea of random breathalyzer tests being untrue, Markert also explained there is at least some credibility to the rumor regarding boosted enforcement of underage drinking laws. The police force has received a grant recently from the Invitation Health Institute, an organization promoting public safety and health on a community level through collaboration with federal and state agencies.

“We have developed, tested, implemented and evaluated a wide range of public health and safety topics that encompass substance abuse. . .and alcohol and drug policy issues,” reads a section of the Institute’s website. “Invitation Health Institute promotes public health by collaborating with communities to create and provide innovative and culturally appropriate prevention services and products worldwide.”

The grant received by the Bemidji Police Department is used to pay overtime salaries for officers to patrol the area around the BSU campus. This step-up in enforcement is not just limited to weekends, as the rumor mentioned, but it is meant for any day of the week. Officers on patrol will not specifically wait outside dorms or anything like the campus whisperings, but they will be equipped with breathalyzers to use if encountered with an individual showing evidence of being under the influence. Extra enforcement around the campus is hoped to deter underage drinking.

According to Markert, the Invitation Health Institute’s grant was awarded near then end of this past summer, and is to be used for the 2012-2013 school year. The grant is due to run through this coming May.