EDITOR’S NOTE: The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station kicked off its annual “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign last night. Mayor John Heilman and city council members John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister joined Sheriff’s Capt. Sergio Aloma and other public safety officers in distributing coasters at local bars that listed alternative forms of transportation to bar goers who might be tempted to drive after drinking too much. Councilmember Horvath elaborates on the annual campaign in the essay below:
Last night, I proudly joined my colleagues on the City Council, along with public safety officials and other community leaders, in an almost 20-year-long tradition – visiting West Hollywood’s bars and restaurants and discussing the dangers of drinking and driving. There is an increase in drunk-driving-related fatalities around the holidays each year, and this conversation is a potentially life-saving opportunity to encourage the community to ensure the holidays are fun and safe for everyone on the road and in our community.
Here are three important tips to safely enjoy a night out:
1) DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE: If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving. Designate a sober driver before the party begins – a designated driver is someone who hasn’t had any alcohol, not just the person who drank the least. Or call a taxi, use Lyft, or take Metro or The PickUp … basically, there are plenty of options for you to NOT drive. Just use them!
2) HAVE A PLAN: If someone you know is planning to go out drinking, know before you go. Don’t leave your friends alone. Don’t leave drinks unattended. And do not let someone get behind the wheel if they have been drinking.
3) PUT THESE NUMBERS IN YOUR PHONE: Always have the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station number in your phone – (310) 855-8850 – and contact them when you need help. You can also contact one of the West Hollywood Block by Block Security Ambassadors – the guards patrolling around town – by calling (323) 821-8604. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement immediately. (Of course, in cases of life threatening emergencies, dial 911.)
While this message is important as we gather to celebrate the holidays, it is one that we know must remain in focus throughout the year. That’s why the City Council took action earlier this year to address issues related to alcohol consumption.
On Oct. 2, the City Council voted unanimously to establish an Alcohol Liaison Officer at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and to initiate a media campaign aimed at curbing alcohol abuse in the city. This action was the result of a months-long effort led by the Safe WeHo Leadership Council, a group focusing on evidence-based strategies to reduce alcohol-related problems in West Hollywood, with participation from our local business community. By approving these recommendations, the City Council has recognized the value of proactively addressing violent crime, DUI crashes, and other negative impacts of practices related to the over service and over consumption of alcohol.
While our Sheriff’s deputies need to spend a lot of time and effort addressing problems once they’ve happened, putting a little more energy into preventing problems from occurring in the first place can save a huge amount of time, energy, and taxpayer money — not to mention pain and suffering. The Alcohol Liaison Officer does exactly that. The West Hollywood Alcohol Liaison Officer is a business-friendly intervention, which aims to strengthen and streamline relationships between law enforcement, City Hall, and alcohol licensees.
Our local Alcohol Liaison Officer is Deputy Julie Pinedo. Deputy Pinedo will proactively develop positive working relationships with the alcohol establishments in the city and be a liaison between these businesses and other departments and agencies. She will also help make sure alcohol retail operators – bars, clubs, restaurants, liquor stores – are up to speed on the current laws and standards of operation and that their staff are trained in Responsible Beverage Service practices.
Cities with a similar position have not only experienced significant improvements in public safety – including up to a 50% drop in police calls for service, reductions in public drunkenness and dramatic decreases in sales to minors – they have also seen a more favorable climate for alcohol establishments and other businesses within the cities’ entertainment zones. Through expanded, proactive outreach and education, the Alcohol Liaison Officer will ultimately reinforce responsible alcohol service and business practices in order to optimize public health and safety in West Hollywood’s thriving entertainment zones.
Additionally, the City Council approved a comprehensive social responsibility campaign intended to create a community-wide social norms shift towards safer behaviors around alcohol and other drugs. The campaign will extend and supplement the city’s existing digital media public safety initiatives and is intended to fully engage the community, encouraging people to participate via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other media.
The real key to maintaining and improving our safety and quality of life most efficiently is to prevent as many public health and safety problems as we possibly can. Given our identity as a popular nightlife destination, it’s imperative for the city to proactively create and maintain as safe a community as reasonably possible.
We all love West Hollywood and want to make sure it continues to be all the things that make us proud to call it home. These new developments will help to ensure our beloved city is even safer as it continues to be a fun place to live, work, and play for everyone. Happy Holidays!