JONESBORO, AR - It was more than sixty years ago that Craighead County was voted dry--proponents at the time said alcohol meant crime. As time has passed, the county has changed dramatically. One thing remaining constant though, is the county, by law, remains dry.
Many argue that keeping alcohol out of the county will keep the cities and neighborhoods safer. But does Craighead County have fewer alcohol related offenses than its wet neighbors?
KAIT gathered data from four region eight counties: two wet and two dry. (*See Table Below) These are the numbers for driving while intoxicated convictions for Craighead, Poinsett, Greene and Randolph counties in 2006. (*See Table Below) Adding in the population in each county, it breaks down to about one for every 174 people. We also calculated the domestic abuse cases for 2006. (*See Table Below)
Patrick Stewart teaches in the Political Science Department at ASU.
"What we find once we control for population and the amount of police, which is very important because you have to have police to go ahead and make arrests, you find that there really is no difference. It doesn't make a difference whether the county is wet, damp, or dry. That's what the data shows us," said Stewart.
According to research, more population leads to more crime. Stewart also says a growing city like Jonesboro may experience a rise in crime rates.
"I think that if you've got a strong police force that is enforcing the rules, no, it will not because people are already drinking," said Stewart.
"As long as we handle it properly, I don't think there will be a lot of difference either way," said Jonesboro Police Chief, Mike Yates.
Yates says for all intents and purposes the city and county are wet. He says the real danger is that before the ordinances were in place, the city was wet with no regulatory authority.
"We're still wet or damp, but we've got some tools to deal with our problems. Since we have put the ordinances in place, our issues have dropped dramatically," said Yates.
Dr. Gregory Russell teaches in the Criminology Department at ASU.
"We know that in probably a majority of violent offenses at the misdemeanor level alcohol is involved, but what we can't determine is whether those crimes would have occurred anyhow," said Dr. Russell.
"The two unquestionable causes of violent crime are concentrations of poverty and dense population.
If you put concentrations of poverty together, you will get violence, alcohol or not," said Dr. Russell.
Paragould Police Captain Todd Stovall, says if people want to drink, they are going to drink. In wet Greene County, Stovall says police would patrol the same way whether the county is wet or dry.
"I'm sure it's a contributing factor, but I don't think it's a major thing," said Stovall.
Most would agree if someone wants alcohol badly enough, they'll get it. "They are going to find a way of messing with their brain one way or another," said Stewart.