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LAGUNA BEACH : Intoxication Arrests Up 656% Last Year

April 27, 1993|LESLIE EARNEST

Crime statistics released by the Police Department show a 656% jump in public intoxication arrests in 1992, an increase the police chief attributes to having the new jail open for a full year.

In 1991, while the City Hall renovation was underway, 32 people were arrested for being drunk in public, a figure that climbed to 242 last year.

Police Chief Neil J. Purcell Jr. said that until the new jail was completed, in October, 1991, officers tended not to arrest people for being drunk in public unless their health was in jeopardy or they had passed out.

When they did make arrests, officers had to sit with detainees in the trailers that served as their temporary offices because there was no place else to hold them, Purcell said.

"We literally had to baby-sit them in the trailers," he said. "And when they were sober enough, we released them."

The statistics also show that overall arrests in Laguna Beach increased slightly in 1992, by 3.7%. That rise was in sharp contrast to the 39% drop in arrests between 1990 and 1991.

Purcell had attributed the drop in arrests to a malaise he said engulfed the department after the release of videotapes of the Rodney G. King incident and of a Laguna Beach police officer kicking a homeless man.

Purcell and Deputy Chief Jim Spreine said they think morale in their department has since improved for a variety of reasons.

"The fact that the Rodney King thing is starting to become a done deal . . . has helped," Spreine said. "For a while, that had a lot of impact on all police officers."

In what the report describes as a coincidence, the number of major crimes reported last year was almost exactly the same as in 1991, with 1,631 in 1992 and 1,634 in 1991.

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