Why are we surprised by the statistics?

One June 17, 2013 The Forum had a front page article on how 89% of area campus crimes are alcohol related. My initial thought was “yup, that’s right.” And this is why.

We have long known the upper Midwest (North Dakota and Minnesota especially) is an area where binge drinking is highest. Binge drinking translates to 5 or more drinks for adult men in two hours or 4 or more drinks in two hours for women. One extended happy hour of drinking can easily add up to 48-60 ounces of beer consumed at one sitting. And studies show that it is the 18-34 year olds who make up the largest number of binge drinkers. Hence, the impaired decision-making and the crimes on campus.

But this isn’t new news when you consider that our college campuses just reflect the behaviors of the society around it. This is our community problem, not a college campus problem. And, binge drinking is not about being an alcoholic or being dependent on alcohol.

What is interesting,  however, is that according to the Center for Disease Control, 18-34 years olds have the highest actual number of binge drinkers– but the age group that binge drinks most often are 65 and up.

In addition, the income group with the most binge drinkers is those who make more than $75,000 (usually not young college students). The correlation between all the binge drinking and crime cannot be ignored.  Erika Beseler-Thompson of NDSU and Eric Plummer, UND Director of Public Safety make the crucial point of our college campuses mirroring the behaviors of the society around it.

The following day, June 18, the Forum Opinion page responded to the article relating to colleges, crime and drinking by asking parents if they want their sons or daughters to attend our local colleges, suggesting it is the college’s responsibility or fault.

This is not just a college problem! It is a problem here in our Midwest community.  There are so many harmful effects which not only include crime and legal ramifications, but emotional, health, physical and social ones as well. The financial toll alone is staggering.

According to the CDC article, binge drinking causes 80,000 deaths in the United States  each year and costs the economy $223.5 to $5 billion dollars in 2006. Put another way it cost $746 per person in our country, and that was back in 2006.

Unfortunately, drinking has become a large part of our culture even with numerous negative consequences, campus crime being just one of them. As a wise co-worker with whom I once worked used to say “change begins with me”.

If you are one of the many people who binge drinks, consider what that behavior says to those around you. If you are one of the people who seems to include drinking in many of your social situations, what message are you telling others? And if you are one of those folks who believes drinking is just part of growing up– please consider how you have influenced your children, your neighbor’s children, and all those around you.

The answer to the rise in college crime due to drinking is not to send our young adults to get their education away from this area, rather it should be our community to take this problem head on and work at changing our culture so this is a great place to live as well to send our children for higher learning.

There are different web sites providing ways communities can address some of these problems such as http://www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol

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