Every year when classes begin the police in Winona swarm the area around my alma matter, Winona State University, on foot patrol looking for underage drinkers. According to the Winona Daily News;
The sweep was part of NightCAP Junior, a program funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered through the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. It pays police overtime to crack down on underage drinking.
A search of the NHTSA website suggests that Minnesota is the only state diverting any of the federal funding to underage drinking enforcement, while other states spend all the money on what appears to be the primary purpose of the program, combating drunk driving. As “traffic safety” is part of the title of both government agencies behind the NightCAP program, drunk driving should be the only focus of the program.
Why is Minnesota the only state spending the money to bust underage drinkers? The college towns of St. Cloud and Mankato were also targeted under the program. Would the citizens of Minnesota not be better served by taking drunk drivers off the street, as opposed to drunk college students? Very few of the college students were even taken off the street, instead being issued citations with fines. If this had anything to do with public safety these students would have thrown into a paddywagon and hauled to jail to sober up. This stunt was nothing more than a revenue generator for the city’s police departments.
Heads up to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety: The message being sent to college students is next NightCAP Junior don’t walk home after the party, drive. Cops can’t pull you over if they’re all busy walking around campus. Then there will be a legitimate traffic safety issue for your office to deal with.