Recent law enforcement experience in the United States has shown clearly that where crime is concerned, paying attention to the little things has a big effect on the big things.

A period during which the New York Police Department cracked down on minor crimes, like painting graffiti on buildings and jumping turnstiles in the subways to get free rides, translated into a reduction in all crimes, including serious ones. 

So I was delighted when the Minister of National Security, Michael Dunkley, introduced a bill in the House of Assembly this month requiring bars to challenge young customers to prove they are old enough to drink.  And I was even more delighted that the House of Assembly passed the bill unanimously.

I’m not aware of any study that proves alcohol use causes crime in Bermuda, but who in his right mind would dispute it? If you pay attention to the news media’s coverage of crime and court cases, you will know that the link has to be strong and direct.  

The recent National Survey of Drugs and Health among Middle and School Students in Bermuda revealed that that in 2011, more than half of the middle-school-aged student participants reported use of alcohol at some point in their lifetimes and 19.1% said they had used alcohol in the previous 30 days, with the first average initiation around age 12 years old. 

Underage drinking and the problems that are associated with it have profound negative consequences for underage drinkers, their families, their communities, and our community. A young person who begins to consume alcohol before the age of 18 is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than someone who waits until they are 21.

 Parents of teenagers should be delighted by this piece of legislation — their sons and daughters will be less likely to have vehicle accidents, and less likely to do the kind of silly things that will get them in trouble with the Police, and perhaps end up on their record.

The Bill that was passed by the House does three things:

It requires bars to demand ID of people who might be minors, under the age of 18, before they can be given alcohol;

It requires bars and nightclubs to demand ID on entry;

It requires those establishments holding licences other than nightclub licences that offer music and other entertainment until 3 am to ensure that they demand ID after 11 pm from people who appear to be minors.

I know the Minister has discussed other measures with those involved in the bar and nightclub business, including implementing a “banned from one, banned from all” policy for some licensed premises.

He has talked to them about stronger enforcement of bans already in place, standardized training for security guards to ensure common standards across the industry, and better sharing of information between businesses in conjunction with the police.  

The Minister praised the bar and nightclub fraternity for their cooperation. I hope he continues to press for those other measures to be adopted, because I have a feeling that a lot of crime is down to teenage drinking, such as thefts of motorcycles, which were said last week to be increasing at a depressing rate.

And since the One Bermuda Alliance is often criticized for not keeping its promises to voters, I’d like to point out that this is
a promis
e that has been delivered on! 

Nandi Outerbridge is an OBA MP for St George’s West