- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - Tribal members who live near Bethel are asking the City Council to require liquor stores to only sell alcohol to customers with city IDs.

Representatives from more than a dozen tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta met in Bethel this week to discuss the impact Bethel’s alcohol sales are having on their villages, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/2mMRreQ ).

Many tribal members say they have seen an uptick in domestic violence, drunken driving and other alcohol-related offenses since Bethel began selling alcohol for the first time in more than 40 years last year.

“Kids are depressed, walking around like they have no hope. Gunshots heard outside of my house multiple times. Neighbors that are always drinking,” said Kimberly Smith, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator in Akiak, a dry village.

It’s not just anecdotal. Some law enforcement officials say alcohol-related offenses are up.

“Since I started in December,” said Steven Andrew, an Atmautluak Tribal Police Officer, “I’ve already got one locker filled with empty bottles of booze. I can’t even count how many bottles I’ve taken away so far.”

Andrew suggested public safety officers intervene before people begin consuming alcohol.

“Your tribal police officers,” he said, “they’re not only there to bring people in for protective custody. You can utilize them to start talking with people, doing welfare checks, check on people, see how they’re doing.”

The tribal group plans to ask Bethel officials to limit alcohol sales to city residents. They also encouraged each Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to create a safety plan to deal with alcohol impacts in their communities.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

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