On Tuesday voters of Anchorage will have several opportunities, but one golden opportunity will probably be missed due to a lack of information and understanding of the issue. On the ballot will be the question "Should the Municipality of Anchorage require mandatory photo identification for sale of alcohol by package liquor stores?"
I have had several of my friends, when asked this question, say, "No, of course not. I don't need to show a photo ID to prove that I am 21 years old." But this question has nothing to do with proving one's age. It is about weeding out the approximately 4,000 problem drinkers who have been ordered as part of their sentences for various convictions not to buy or consume alcohol or enter premises where alcohol is sold. These Alaskans have been identified by a red stripe across their driver's license or state-issued ID that says Alcohol Restricted.
These are the people who have had multiple drunken-driving convictions or at least three alcohol-related misdemeanors. They have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that they are not responsible drinkers.
These people have no business in a package store or anywhere else alcohol is sold. They are breaking the law by being there and the business is enabling their behavior when they fail to check IDs. The law states that the clerk should confiscate the offender's ID and the offender be fined $1,000 and possibly have his or her probation revoked. The $1,000 is awarded to the business as an incentive to check IDs.
This should be a meaningful deterrent to keep problem drinkers away from alcohol and help keep us, their potential victims, out of harm's way. Yet this approach will only work if clerks check the ID. Otherwise these lethal weapons will continue their mayhem on our roads and in our lives.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am biased in that one of these repeat offenders hit my wife on Christmas Eve 2004 and nearly took away my wife, our children's mother and a friend and mentor to the hundreds of people whose lives Gwen has touched. There is no punishment that he could suffer that would somehow balance the scales had he taken Gwen from us. The only thing we can do is try to prevent tragedy by identifying these people and denying them the privilege of consuming alcohol.
Don't you think that as these repeat offenders wake up in the morning after committing some horrific offense, they wish that some clerk had stopped them while they were yet sober?
Statistics show that more than 80 percent of the people in Alaska's jails and prisons are there for alcohol-related offenses. Anchorage police say they spend more than 30 percent of their total budget on about 200 revolving-door offenders and almost all are problem drinkers. Not only can we lessen the grief these people cause, but there are real savings to be gained by the simple act of a clerk asking to see the ID of a customer before they complete the sale.
The alcohol industry says that they want to be good corporate citizens of our community. They can prove that by making their best effort to keep alcohol out of the hands of those folks who continue to prove that they are not responsible drinkers and continue to commit murder and mayhem in our community.
Please vote yes on Proposition 11 on Tuesday. It's too late to help previous victims; now is the time to prevent others from becoming victims.
Harry Crawford is a former state representative from East Anchorage.
By HARRY CRAWFORD
Alaska Dispatch Publishing