Right idea, wrong approach

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 11, 2007 Ed Cartoon

London Police Department Chief Murray Faulkner has proposed a keg registry program in which buyers will have their names and addresses recorded when making purchases.

It’s part of an effort to ensure accountability for people holding dangerous keg parties and to crack down on illegal keggers in general. So far Faulkner has met with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission and the LCBO about the registry.

London Police said most students are smart and don’t cause trouble, and that the goal of the registry and other alcohol-related policies is to keep students safe " especially minors.

Although student safety should be at the forefront of police efforts, this policy sends the wrong message to students and fosters an adversarial relationship with police.

Students may feel they’re being unfairly targeted and harassed by the police and that police assume students are guilty before committing any crime.

There’s no guarantee regulating kegs through a registry will make keg parties any safer; wily students will find a way around it. Some examples include providing false information or having a friend purchase a keg. The question arises of whether all large alcohol purchases should be regulated to ensure safety.

Instead, the police could raise fines for selling alcohol without a liquor licence as a deterrent, or they could enforce the current law more.

The keg registry also raises questions about privacy and personal information; for example, if you buy a keg and return it, will your information be removed from the registry? Or will the police act like Big Brother and continue monitoring you?

The truth is police are targeting students because students are the ones holding keg parties; doing so is a justifiable approach to crime prevention. It’s reasonable to regulate keg purchases since many keggers can be dangerous.

Perhaps this policy will encourage people to take more caution when holding parties. Some students holding keg parties attempt to duck responsibility for their actions, and this approach would force party hosts to be responsible.

After all, the police will (hopefully) only bother those purchasing large numbers of kegs and holding illegal parties. They’ll leave alone people who purchase one keg for a keg fridge or home tap.

However, that doesn’t mean a keg registry program is the best strategy for police to address dangerous keggers. Although it encourages accountability, it creates privacy concerns, has loopholes, and pits students and police against each other before any foul is committed.

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