Monday, September 24, 2018

Elizabeth Dohms

Proposed ordinance changes remind of Water Street experience

  • dr-Crosswalk-1-091416-2

    UW-Eau Claire students cross Water Street at First Avenue in Eau Claire on September 13, 2016.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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The City Council is going to be considering changes to an ordinance that in part would address people who are publicly intoxicated.

Having an ordinance for public intoxication would essentially allow officers to issue citations to anyone under the influence who’s causing harm to themselves or others or disturbing others. Anyone who looks like they might cause harm could be stopped by officers.

I was talking to Chad Hoyord, Eau Claire police department deputy chief of patrol, when he posed an example.

“We get a call of somebody that’s intoxicated walking home and went to the wrong house. They’re banging on the door, the person is intoxicated to the level that they don’t know where they’re at and they’re causing a disturbance. We have the opportunity to address those issues not only with the person but try to get that person some help if they have alcohol issues.”

That sounded familiar.

It was probably about 2008 when I lived on Water Street and was pretty used to the regular chaos that Friday and Saturday nights invited. I had to find ways to drown out the noise, since most of the time I had to be in bed by 9 p.m. to awake by 5 a.m. the next morning for my job.

I had been sleeping for a few hours when I was jarred awake by banging on our front door and windows. Groggy me took a second to realize what the noise was and where it was coming from. I woke my boyfriend up and together we answered the door.

A woman staggered into our living room, slurring her words — adamant that we get out of her house. She was about to wake up my coworker (who also had to work the next day) in the next bedroom when I asked her name or if she had her ID with her.

“Listen (expletive deleted). Get out of my house,” I think she said.

After much of the same back-and-forth, she passed out right in front of our front door, preventing us from actually opening it.

What do we do? We could let her sleep there, but that wasn’t the best option knowing full well a stranger would wake up in our house, maybe when none of us were awake yet.

Lifting her up and putting her outside didn’t resonate as an option.

So we called the cops.

They pushed their way in, shined a light in her face and got a few more swear words out of her before picking her up and helping her into the squad car. I assume they took her home.

We went back to bed.

The next day I came home from work to two women standing on my porch. One had asked if there was a party at my house the night before.

“No,” replied, not wanting to lie. Her response was that her friend got an underage citation, a disorderly conduct and some other infringement on a ticket that listed our address on it.

“She came stumbling into our house at like 2 a.m., she was covered in dirt like she’d fallen several times. You should have seen her,” I said to the friend.

That encouraged a tart response from the other girl. “I’m standing right here!” she said.

I told her I didn’t recognize her. Upset at our response, I said she was lucky we did what we did. She could have been a victim in someone else’s home. She could have stumbled into the street and been hit by a car or wandered into some other unfortunate scenario.

I wonder how often that’s happened to others.

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