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Policies vary on issuing drunkenness citations in Western Pa. communities

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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

How and when suburban police departments issue tickets for public drunkenness varies from town to town.

In West Mifflin, the number of public drunkenness citations has increased dramatically, from 8 in 2011 to 74 this year, according to the state Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Police Chief Ken Davies said his officers are too busy to wait outside of bars and watch for drunks.

“That's not our M.O. — not our way of dealing with it,” Davies said. “We've got enough to deal with otherwise.”

In Ross, Detective Brian Kohlhepp, police spokesman, said most of the township's drunkenness citations result from calls to 911. About 20 percent result from patrolling. His department has no policy or practice of watching bars, he said.

Carnegie Chief Jeffrey Harbin said his officers walk through bars to discourage criminal activity. His agency issued 56 citations last year and 26 this year.

“Our call volume and the number of officers on the street would prohibit (waiting),” Harbin said. “But I will tell you that our officers — on a weekend night and call-volume permitting — will walk through a bar, just to show the uniform and talk to people, maybe head off problems later.”

In Castle Shannon, Chief Ken Truver — a former Mt. Lebanon officer — said his small department lacks the manpower to watch bars, but he thinks keeping an eye on businesses known to draw crowds is justifiable.

“I have, generally, two to three officers on (a shift). I don't have the luxury of parking someone on a bar,” Truver said. “Police want to be where the people are going to be. ... Even a one-man agency is going to find where the problems occur and be there.”

— Matthew Santoni

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