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Study: Chico tops the list in underage drinking

Published On: Oct 24 2013 01:43:37 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 24 2013 07:48:23 PM CDT
chico alcohol pic

CHICO, Calif. -

A meeting to deal with Chico's alcohol problems reveals chart-topping statistics.  In Chico in 2012, there were more than 1,600 alcohol-related crimes, and 35 percent of the police department's arrests involved booze.

According to county records, underage drinking is higher here than anywhere in California.   On Wednesday, community leaders gathered at the Chico City Council Chambers to analyze the issue and discuss possibly solutions.

Chico City Council Member Sean Morgan said the problem is obvious.  "There is more binge drinking that goes on here than other places," said Morgan.

Chico State University has numerous establishments right next door to its campus that serve alcohol, and at very cheap prices.  Jim Mosher is a scholar in the field of alcohol policy and the law, and addressed the group about the impact excessive drinking can have on the wider community.

'Having alcohol readily-available at cheap prices is encouraging a lot of experimentation that can be dangerous," said Mosher.  "We need community voices in the dialogue, so the problem is really understood."

One idea that's drawing support is beefing up Title 5, so that there are academic consequences to a student's behavior off campus.   Council Member Sean Morgan agrees.

"If somebody says, 'Wow. I got drunk last night, I passed out. I got a $1,000 fine and now I'm on academic probation.'" said Morgan.  "How many people does that have to happen to before people start going, 'whoa.. this might not be the best place to do that.'"

The problem stretches beyond the university.  Chico has an over-saturation of alcohol licenses according to the state alcohol beverage control board.   Police Chief Kirk Trostle has suggested limiting the number of licenses, but also acknowledges limits can provide an unfair burden to business owners.

"That is the challenge of balancing business and community concerns, alcohol abuse being this particular topic," said Trostle.   

The executive committee of the Chico City Council is meeting to study some proposals before the full council takes them under consideration.