By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — The Christian Action League is being recognized for its efforts to help keep young people safe from substance abuse by fighting for funding for North Carolina ALE during the state’s intense budget battle this spring.
“Your support was instrumental in minimizing the impact of the budget cuts affecting the Division,” wrote C. John Ledford, director of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) in a July 5 letter to CAL Executive Director Rev. Mark Creech, in which he thanked CAL for assistance during the 2011 legislative session.
“It is through vital partnerships between law enforcement and community groups that a real difference is made in reducing youth access to illegal substances and age-restricted products,” Ledford continued.
Desperate for ways to slash state spending in the face of a staggering budget deficit, lawmakers initially considered shutting down ALE in an attempt to save $9.5 million, but eventually cut the agency by less than 10 percent after hearing from the Christian Action League and others in the public health arena who understand ALE’s critical role.
The Christian Action League not only published articles on the issue via its Web site, but the Rev. Creech addressed the matter one-on-one with legislators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety, urging them to look elsewhere for cuts and to keep ALE intact. Other organizations such as the N.C. Substance Abuse Prevention Providers Association and Families in Action, also spoke up for ALE, as did the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which relies heavily on ALE agents to investigate and monitor permit applicants.
“This is one of dozens of issues that we lobbied on during the last session that illustrates the Christian Action League’s role in keeping lawmakers informed on matters that affect the health and welfare of our citizens,” said the Rev. Creech. “The enforcement of ABC laws, many of which deal with underage drinking, was too important to be left to chance or dumped on already overburdened local law enforcement agencies. ALE officers have additional training and knowledge of ABC law, plus they lead educational efforts among bar and restaurant operators to head off illegal sales before they happen. It’s impossible to tell how many violations their thousands of routine checks at alcohol selling establishments prevent.
ALE agents also deal with hundreds of controlled substance cases each year, probe gambling and gang activity and play a role in lottery enforcement, bingo game operations and boxing licensing. According to the Division’s annual report, ALE agents, which number about 112, made 10,334 arrests last year, with nearly 60 percent of them involving alcohol related violations and another 25 percent dealing with controlled substances and tobacco.
Supporters of the push to disband ALE included the John Locke Foundation, which has long wanted the state to pare back alcohol regulations altogether, and the Daily Tar Heel newspaper, which claimed that “students who drink underage are committing a crime, but usually they aren’t harming anyone at all — including themselves.”
Apparently the newspaper isn’t aware that, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol kills 6.5 times more young people under the age of 21 than all other illicit drugs combined or that 95 percent of all violent crimes committed on college campuses are alcohol related (N.C. Governor’s Institute on Alcohol and Substance Abuse).
“This is all the more reason that our lawmakers need factual and complete information as soon as proposals come up, so they can make truly intelligent decisions,” the Rev. Creech said. “It’s also why the CAL needs support from across the state, so we can be there to provide such information.”
Ledford’s letter said the ALE Division is “proud to partner with the Christian Action League of North Carolina to further the mission of ensuring safer communities across our state.”