People showing up in police custody for alcohol consumption have been drinking a lot.
Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber told the Teton County Board of Health last week that in late February and early March, the department’s “in-custodies” — people who were actually arrested — registered an average blood-alcohol concentration of 0.326. That’s a bit more than four times the legal limit to drive.
“That is a staggering number, in my opinion,” Weber said.
She didn’t provide the board with historical data, but a report from Utah in 2016 showed that the largest percentage of arrests for DUI it recorded involved people with blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.11 to 0.15. That same year, the highest blood-alcohol level in a Utah DUI arrest was about 0.37, not much higher than Teton County’s average during the late winter.
As for the high blood-alcohol rate of people in police custody recently, Weber stressed that it does not represent all alcohol-related infractions or contacts with police. People taken into custody are generally the ones who can’t find or remember where they are staying or are so drunk they need medical assistance.
It’s still concerning for health professionals and cops when the average arrest is above a 0.3 BAC. According to Stanford University, that level of intoxication means the person needs assistance walking, has mental confusion and is likely experiencing dysphoria with nausea and possibly vomiting.
Adult overconsumption has been on the minds of Teton County law enforcement and public health professionals for a long time. Community Prevention Specialist Beverly Shore told the Board of Health that overconsumption is one of the five focus areas of the Prevention Coalition, a partnership between agencies and mental health practitioners.
“We’re a resort community. We have a transient population of folks working seasonally,” Shore said of factors driving overconsumption. “And [we have] housing insecurity, which increases anxiety, and then people self-medicate with alcohol.”