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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane police hope liquor board continues ban

Spokane police hope the state Liquor Control Board will continue to ban the sale of certain high-alcohol beverages in the downtown area, though department data about the ban’s effectiveness is limited. Since 2010, Spokane’s downtown core – the area bounded roughly by Scott Street, Spokane Falls Boulevard, Cannon Street and Fifth Avenue – has been a designated Alcohol Impact Area where sale of high-octane beer and wine products is banned. East Central received the same designation in 2012. Downtown, sales of 46 low-cost, high-alcohol products are currently banned. That includes Keystone Ice, Steel Reserve and Mike’s Harder Lemonade. Spokane Police Sgt. Sam Yamada said at a Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday the program has shown results in curbing calls for service directly related to alcohol consumption, though other calls for service have increased. Downtown, police received just 55 calls for liquor violations like open containers in public last year, down from 144 in 2010. Calls to evaluate whether intoxicated people needed to be taken to detox were also down from a high of 280 in 2011 to 134 last year, though incidents where fire and police officers transported people to detox increased in 2014. But police department data shows calls for a wider range of 12 offenses associated with chronic public drunkenness increased about 4 percent last year, to 7,980 total calls. That includes calls for arguments, disorderly conduct, trespassing, suspicious persons and lewd conduct. East Central calls for service showed similar trends, with decreases in liquor violations and detox calls, but overall increases across a broader group of 12 offenses. The Liquor Control Board evaluates impact areas every five years by seeking comments from affected businesses and evaluating data about the area, including calls for service. The board sent letters to affected parties, including the city and businesses in the area, on April 3. Anyone petitioning to end the AIA designation must show the area doesn’t have a “pervasive pattern of public intoxication or public consumption of liquor.” Yamada said his data was “anecdotal” and “not a scientific study.” It doesn’t address many factors that have likely impacted call numbers, including population growth and Washington’s liquor privatization in 2012. “What we really need to look at in the coming years is the impact of the privatization of the alcohol,” he said. But he believes keeping the AIA designation will help reduce liquor-related offenses. “I think it’s important to the downtown area and I believe it should continue,” he told the city’s Public Safety Committee Monday. Councilwoman Amber Waldref told Yamada she wants to make sure the list of banned types of alcohol is updated to remain current as new products are developed. “If we’re not constantly updating the list, then we’re not being effective,” she said.
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