August 17, 2013

Navy changes how alcohol is sold on-base

By BROCK VERGAKIS, The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

The effort follows a Pentagon report, released in May, that estimates as many as 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted last year.

Alcohol is often involved. In a survey, 55 percent of Navy women said they or the offender had consumed alcohol before unwanted sexual contact.

Navy officials have stressed they're not trying to keep sailors from drinking, but they want them to do so responsibly.

The Navy is already giving many sailors random alcohol-detection tests when they report for duty, and soon the devices will be found on store shelves for personal use. The single-use product will sell for $1.99.

Jernigan suggested the Navy may want to eliminate its discounts on alcohol – just as it recently did with tobacco – if it wants to make further strides.

Not all sailors think the new rules will help.

"If people are going to drink, they're still going to buy it wherever," Seaman Bryan Free said after buying a bottle of vodka from a Naval Station Norfolk gas station. "So if they take it out of here, it's not going to do nothing because they're going to go to the package store right out of base. That's usually where everybody gets it. So it doesn't really matter."

Most of the Navy's large bases are in urban areas with plenty of convenience and grocery stores nearby.

And in the Navy, on-base housing options are typically limited, leading Free and other sailors commute to work rather than living in barracks.

Robert Parker, a University of California at Riverside sociology professor who has studied the links between alcohol and crime, said restricting on-base alcohol sales should help even if there are places to buy it nearby.

"If you make something like alcohol harder to get, you restrict the hours, you restrict the places it can be bought, then generally consumption goes down in that community or that area because people have a lot of things to do in addition to buying alcohol," Parker said. "There will be some individuals that will be determined no matter what, and they'll travel 100 miles to buy a six pack, but most people won't do that."


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