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Published: Wednesday, 2/9/2005

Bowling Green: Crimes with alcohol use show increase

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - While the city recorded its first homicide in seven years in 2004, the more telling increase in crime continued to be in alcohol-related offenses.

Arrests for liquor law violations rose from 930 in 2003 to 1,008 in 2004. Arrests for disorderly conduct jumped from 424 in 2003 to 524 last year.

"I think alcohol is a major concern for this community," said Police Chief Tom Votava. "It plays into many of the other problems we have in our neighborhoods and affects the quality of life of our residents.

"We have a disproportionate number of 18 to 21-year-olds with the university which causes a great deal of concern. You mix that youth with alcohol and you end up with problems - assaults, disturbances and so forth - so the police division pays and we will continue to pay very close attention to the illegal use of alcohol within our community."

The police division's annual report released last week details the number of calls for service, arrests, and traffic crashes during the last two years.

Overall, traffic crashes were down from 1,499 in 2003 to 1,368 last year, a fact Chief Votava attributed to stepped-up enforcement efforts. The city experienced no fatal crashes in 2003 or 2004.

"We feel our enforcement efforts may be paying some dividends," he said.

Residents seem to want police to work on the issue.

Whenever officers stop motorists for traffic offenses or talk with them on complaints, they hand out citizen satisfaction surveys. In the 556 surveys returned last year, many asked that police continue to work on curbing speeding in the city and work on enforcing all traffic laws.

Alcohol-related problems, including vandalism, litter, and loud parties, also were a top concern expressed in the surveys.

While enforcing liquor laws and keeping a strong presence in the downtown area on busy weekends remains a priority for police, Chief Votava said his division continues to work with residents and Bowling Green State University on ways to curb the problem.

Since 2000, the city has paired student and community volunteers to walk the neighborhoods between the downtown bars and campus on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the spring and fall to keep an eye on revelers and report problems by two-way radio to police.

Police also send out notification letters to parents of anyone under 21 who is arrested for an alcohol-related offense. In 2004, about 858 letters were mailed to parents, and the chief hopes that will make students think twice about drinking too much.

"The officers are consistently asked, 'Will my parents be notified?'‚óŹ" he said. "We hope that is a concern and will have a deterrent effect. The other thing is by Mom and Dad being aware, they can take some action to prevent their son or daughter from getting into trouble again."

Violent crime remained relatively low in the city, although the year began with the city's first homicide in seven years.

On Feb. 29, 2004, Michelle Descant, 24, was stabbed to death in the South Summit Street home she shared with William Ball, 36.

Ball pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault in connection with her death. He is scheduled to be sentenced today in Wood County Common Pleas Court.

The police division's annual report may be viewed on-line on the division's Web site, www.bowlinggreenpolice.org.



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