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Determination: Mostly True
Analysis: Following a drunken beach melee on Labor Day four years ago, the City Council temporarily banned alcohol from all city beaches. Then, before the ban expired, voters made it permanent through a citywide ballot measure in November 2008.
Though opponents have moved on, the ban’s continued to be a perennial topic of civic discussion around the summer holidays. In their editorial, Allen and Green aimed to convince skeptics that the ban has been a worthwhile policy to improve public safety. They wrote:
We’ve had alcohol-free beaches for three summers. What has changed in the beach areas? Alcohol-related crime is down. Violent crime is down. Vandalism of homes and yards has decreased. The number of underage drinking violations is less than one-third of the city’s total. Police have reduced the number of officers on holidays, preserving a big slice of the department’s overtime budget.
In that claim-filled assessment, Allen and Green’s point about alcohol-related crime grabbed our attention since it was those kinds of crimes that gave the ban momentum. Proponents aimed to remove heavy drinkers like those involved in the Labor Day brawl and make the beaches more family friendly, especially on busy summer holidays.
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To assess the claim’s accuracy, we obtained six years of crime statistics from San Diego police and compared three years before and three years after the ban. The numbers, it turns out, support the claim.
The four beach communities at the center of the debate were Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Mission Bay Park. After the ban, alcohol-related crime fell in three of the four neighborhoods, and overall by 22 percent.
But as we explained in a story today, falling crime near the beach wasn’t the only notable trend after the ban became effective. Alcohol-related crime has increased in inland neighborhoods, where voters supported it becoming permanent. Here’s an excerpt from the story:
Alcohol-related crime increased by 9 percent in Rancho Bernardo, which supported the ballot measure by the largest margin of any neighborhood in the city (64 percent of voters). It grew by 50 percent in San Ysidro, which supported the ballot measure by the third largest margin (61 percent of voters).
The contrast between crime trends and the election results is especially stark in southeastern San Diego, where nearly all precincts voted for the ban. Alcohol-related crime grew by more than 40 percent in Lincoln Park, Mountain View, Shelltown and Skyline. In Valencia Park, it grew by 76 percent.
Police attribute the falling crime in beach neighborhoods to the ban and rising crime elsewhere to increased enforcement. Other factors, such as the economy, could play a role in the shift, too.
We’ve rated Allen and Green’s statement Mostly True since it accurately described alcohol-related crime trends in the beach areas since the ban, but there is an important nuance — the increase in alcohol-related crime elsewhere — to consider. If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.