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Greek Life Leery of Moore’s Vows to Reform Alcohol Enforcement Relationships

As Election Day draws near in the three-way race for Statesboro Mayor, the ever-growing influence of Georgia Southern may play a bigger role in this year’s election as one candidate campaigns hard to earn the trust and support of Georgia Southern students.

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Incumbent Mayor Jan Moore has made a concerted effort to involve Georgia Southern Students in this year’s election by registering students to vote on campus, speaking to groups and organizations, sending them reminders for early voting, and offering to bus student voters to the polls on Election Day.

Moore, focusing on issues like alcohol and public safety that affect students most, has worked to earn the votes of GSU students by ensuring them she understands their struggles and concerns while trying to build a bridge to make sure they have a positive college experience in Statesboro.

But it hasn’t been well-received across the Board. Some of the members of the Greek organizations say they did not like what Moore had to say about city alcohol laws.

“She came to visit us during Chapter. We didn’t know she was coming but we all had to be there. Her first question was ‘Do you feel targeted by the Statesboro Police Department’ followed by ‘Are you afraid of the Statesboro Police Department?’ Then she told us she understands what we go through with alcohol issues with the police and how there is no where to go,” one member of AOPi said. She spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid issues for her sorority, which is supposed to remain apolitical.

“I just don’t feel like it was genuine,” the member of AOPi said. “She hasn’t been to talk to us or see us any of the other years I’ve been a student here but now it’s election time and a lot of our girls are very young and naive and so she was just telling them what they want to hear. And I don’t really think there is anything she can do to change this situation anyway.”

Other students say their fraternities and sororities mandated they attend Moore’s speeches in the Recreation Activity Center (RAC), but the message was the same. A Phi Mu said Moore told their group, “I’m going to make it my mission to fix this issue with the cops for you all.”

Moore said her visits to the fraternity and sorority houses mimic the conversations she has with all Georgia Southern students. “I understand what they’re going through. Am I concerned about the perception with our police? Yes. I want to know how they [students] feel and I can’t improve anything without knowing the perceptions. I understand they get a lot of attention.” Moore said students are watched by a lot of agencies – referring to the overlap of alcohol enforcement across the city and county by GSU PD, Statesboro PD, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Department of Revenue. “I’m not blaming anyone. Everyone has a job to do. But are we doing too much? I’m not sure. We want students to enjoy their time here, but we have to keep them safe.”

But that mentality differs a bit from the position of the Mayor and Council actions over the last three years.

After the death of Michael Gatto in 2014, Statesboro made radical changes to its alcohol ordinance as public scrutiny exploded over lack of alcohol ordinance enforcement and the Gatto family filed a lawsuit against the city. The Statesboro Police Department appointed an officer focus solely on alcohol ordinance enforcement and the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office has funded a similar position. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Revenue frequently conducts compliances checks on businesses in the community.

So what percentage of Statesboro Police Department resources go toward alcohol compliance?

An Open Records Request with the City of Statesboro Police Department shows that 181 of the 6,627 total citations issued in 2016 were for possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21, or 2.7% percent. Of all 2,145 arrests for misdemeanors and felonies in 2016, 56 -or 2.6% -of those were for possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21. Law enforcement officials have widely held that the majority of arrests for the charge are coupled with other offenses or in instances where the person would pose a risk to themselves or others.**

In 2017, those number have been less. From January 1, 2017 to October 1, 2017, just 53 of the 4,553 citations issued by the Statesboro Police Department were for possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21. That’s 1.16% of the citations issued. Arrests followed the same trend with just 17 of the 1,462 arrests being for alcohol under 21 in the same period, again, just 1.16%.

Those numbers are much lower than the numbers reported by The Statesboro Herald in the preiod beginning Jan. 1, 2013, through Sept. 9, 2014, where city police issued 383 citations for possession of alcohol by people under age 21.

AllOnGeorgia also filed an Open Records Request with Georgia Southern University Public Safety. In 2016, 69 people were arrested for possession of alcohol under 21 and from January 1 to October 1 2017, 25 people were arrested for underage alcohol possession. GSU Public Safety, according to Open Records, does not issue citations without an arrest for underage drinking, an approach different from that of Statesboro’s where Moore was previously quoted saying, “We don’t have enough jail space to throw drunk college kids in it.”

Georgia Southern’s territory is much different as well, considering the population of the university is just over 20,500 and police patrol campus, campus housing, and Greek Row, while Statesboro Police patrol the entire city, the off-campus housing, and any restaurants and bars.

Moore maintains that all the players need to sit down and have a conversation about who is doing what to make sure Georgia Southern Police, Statesboro Police, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Department of Revenue aren’t overlapping in duties.

As for the Statesboro Police Department, their enforcement yields are lower than in the years leading up the Gatto death and have shifted to business owners furnishing the alcohol, so how further reduction in enforcement on students could be achieved remains to be seen.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7. Moore faces Jonathan McCollar and John Grotheer in a race that requires 50% + 1 vote in order to avoid a runoff.

**When a person is arrested by the SPD for possession of alcohol under the age of 21, they are issued a citation, therefore, the number of citations for SPD INCLUDE people who were arrested.

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

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