“Auburn-Opelika named the drunkest city in Alabama,” was the title of an article in the December 3 edition of the “Auburn Plainsman,” written by Amanda Myles. She stated that the rankings are based on the the percentage of people who are “binge or heavy drinkers,” which was 17.8 percent, compared to a statewide average of 12.2 percent. She further stated that, “This was reported to (sic?) the Centers for Disease and Control.”
Captain William Mathews of the Auburn Police Division said he did not know how the statistics were derived but acknowledged that binge drinking continues to be a problem in “our university community.” According to Mathews there were 307 driving under the influence arrests in 2014, considerably more than those arrested for DUI in Tuscaloosa, reported to be 209 in 2014. Two Auburn students interviewed said they were surprised by the statistics. Elizabeth Irwin, a freshman, was quoted as saying, “I feel like the University of Alabama would be a way more crazier.”
I almost always scan the police reports when they are published in the “Opelika-Auburn News,” and I filtered through my stack of papers dating from October 29 to December 11. Although I may have missed a few, I examined a total of 38. During the aforementioned period, the Auburn police reported 26 DUI arrests. The Opelika police recorded only 6. One might conclude that the disparity in numbers of arrests reflects a difference in the demography between the two cities, Auburn having a much larger number of college students. I did not tally the number of people who were of college-age arrested for DUI in Auburn, but there were quite a few.
I propose another hypothesis to account for the much larger number of DUI arrests in Auburn than in Opelika. My observations lead me to believe that the number of police patrolling the streets of Auburn far exceeds the number patrolling in Opelika. Driving through Auburn I am accustomed to seeing at least one and, usually, two, three, or more police patrol cars. As often as not, I see a patrol car parked beside a street on the lookout for traffic law violators. Conversely, the sight of a police patrol car in Opelika is a rarity.
About two weeks ago, I contacted the Opelika Police Department via the city’s Internet 311 system and asked why I see so many more police cars in Auburn than I do in Opelika. I mentioned Marvyn Parkway as a street where I often see what I believe to vehicles exceeding the speed limit, but have never seen a police car patrolling the street, nor a car pulled over for a violation. My query has not been answered.
While on the subject of law enforcement, it bothers me that a sizable segment of our population tends to believe that our law enforcement officers habitually engage in racial profiling, which I believe could not be further from the truth. Too many fail to appreciate how fortunate we are to have selfless law enforcement officers willing to risk their lives to help keep all of us safe from harm.
When people lose their lives in confrontations with law officers, such as the man killed by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, virtually all would still be alive if they had heeded the kind of advice my late father gave me when I was a teenager. He told me, “Son, if for any reason you are ever confronted by a police officer, never, never argue with him. Just smile and have a mouth full of yes sirs.”
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.