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Controlling Drunk People

Posted December. 19, 2009 12:38,   


Because of the large number of year-end parties and events around this time of year, many drunk people create disturbances on the streets or in public places. More than a few behave violently at police stations under the influence. Last year, drunks accounted for around 30 percent of those convicted of minor offenses. More than 21 percent of cases handled by police stations involve drunk people, costing some 44 billion won (37.4 million U.S. dollars) a year, according to a study.

Yet the only thing police can do to punish them is fines. Few drunks, however, suddenly fall in line just because of the threat of getting a fine, and officers usually just beg those inebriated to go home. Some drunk people ignore police and get arrested for damaging police property or assaulting officers. In these cases, police refrain from arresting those under the influence to protect their rights, but a minor offense can often turn into a felony.

Under law, police cannot arrest a drunk person running wild or detain them at a police station. In 2004, police tried to get enacted a law on controlling drunk people but failed because of fears over human rights violations and abuse of police power. The reality, however, is that certain people under the influence are prone to committing violence or felonies, including sexual crimes or murder. Separate safeguards can help prevent human rights abuses by police.

Since July, the Busan District Police Agency has been running a program for treating those who habitually get drunk. The Busan police commissioner said, “Children or visually impaired people going near bodies of water should be stopped to prevent accidents.” What he means is that if police have the authority to arrest, restrain or protect drunk and violent people, other crimes can be prevented. This could at the very least protect innocent citizens from falling victim to crimes committed by drunk people.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)