Hospitals in Boulder and Fort Collins, Co., have seen drastic increases since 2001 in underage patients with problems related to alcohol, reports the Denver Post. In Boulder, where a University of Colorado fraternity pledge died lat week after a night of heavy drinking, alcohol-related admissions at the community hospital have nearly tripled from 51 in 2001 to 148 last year. In Fort Collins, where a Colorado State University sophomore died from alcohol poisoning Sept. 5, the numbers jumped from 86 in 2001 to 151 last year. In both towns, arrests and citations related to underage drinking are troublingly high. In Fort Collins, 532 minors were charged with alcohol possession in 2003; Boulder police wrote 1,244 tickets to minors in possession of alcohol last year.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said his department has ticketed hundreds of students since school started in August. “Obviously, writing 600 summonses over a three-weekend period did not prevent this death,” he said. “It did not prevent this tragedy from happening. So there’s got to be other approaches we can take.” Beckner and Colorado University police chief Jim Fadenrecht wonder if the 1987 Colorado law setting the legal drinking age at 21 should be reconsidered. The “prohibitionist approach” to under-21 drinkers is failing, said Fadenrecht. “I think we’ve got to understand what our reality is and spend more time talking about responsible drinking,” he said. “I think that conversation has to occur irrespective of age.”