HPD says revenue not incentive

by Conrad Scoville | 11/22/09 11:00pm

Despite the common perception among students, Hanover Police has no financial incentive to arrest individuals for underage drinking, according to police and town officials. Although Hanover Police does collect money in connection with arrests for underage possession of alcohol, those funds comprise a relatively insignificant portion of its total budget, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"We enforce the law we don't really look at what the revenue piece is," Giaccone said. "We receive hardly any revenue from traffic tickets, yet we pursue traffic tickets to pursue safety."

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin also said that alcohol-related arrests are not motivated by financial concerns.

"It's certainly not a situation where we look from year to year and we say, We need to increase those arrests because we need to raise revenue,'" she said.

The police department's budget includes an estimated $27,200 in revenue from its Alcohol Diversions Program for the 2010 fiscal year, not including the program's costs of about $18,000, Giaccone said. Individuals over the age of 18 arrested for underage possession of alcohol can participate in the program to prevent the arrest from being included in their permanent record.

Hanover has generated $8,865 in profit from the Diversions program receiving $14,800 in revenue that was offset by $5,935 in expenses thus far this fiscal year, Giaccone said.

Hanover Police's budget also lists $15,000 in predicted revenue from court fines, the majority of which will come from alcohol-related incidents, Giaccone said. The revenue from fines and Diversions first goes into the Town of Hanover's general fund, after which some of the revenue is used to offset the department's expenses, Giaccone said.

This year, Hanover Police's budget lists $530,000 in predicted total revenue, he said.

Eliminating the revenue from arrests for underage possession of alcohol would not significantly affect the police force's budget, Giaccone said.

Individuals who enroll in the Diversions program pay more than those who do not $400 for the program as opposed to a $360 fine but the town still makes a smaller profit when individuals participate in Diversions rather than pay their fine, Giaccone said.

The police department's budget projections have been too low thus far in the 2010 fiscal year, mainly due to the large size of each Diversions program session, Giaccone said. Each Diversions session costs the town the same amount of money, although large enrollment in some sessions has brought in more revenue, he said.

"On the revenue side, we're ahead of the projection right now," Giaccone said, adding that the budget's cost projections are on target.

Between six and eight individuals participate in each Diversions session, he said, which occur once or twice per month.

Dartmouth students make up the majority of program participants. In the last year on record, 60 of the 77 individuals who participated were Dartmouth students, Giaccone said.

Police officers do not receive any overtime compensation or commission for making alcohol-related arrests, or for accompanying ambulances to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Giaccone said.

The town's fire department, which operates the ambulances, does not receive any additional revenue for transporting intoxicated individuals to DHMC, according to Hanover Fire Department Chief Roger Bradley.

Bradley emphasized that ambulance personnel are not directly involved in arresting individuals for underage possession.

"[Emergency personnel are] worried about the appropriate health care," Bradley said.

Ambulance transportation also costs the town money, Griffin said. The general ambulance fund which serves Hanover, Lyme and Norwich is projected to cost $833,000, while receiving $435,000 in revenue this fiscal year, she said. Although individuals who use the service pay a fee, the rest of the cost falls to the taxpayer, Griffin said.