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Little 500 drinking ticket numbers drop again, officials offer theories why



cleanup

Students who received a drinking violation ticket over the Little 500 weekend clean up trash Sunday afternoon at Bill Armstrong Stadium as part of the pretrial diversion program. This year's number of drinking tickets was especially low.  Mallory Smith

The traditional string of partygoers wrapped around the justice center the Sunday of Little 500 weekend was nowhere to be found this year. The 102 who were ticketed came in waves.

Last year, police handed out 166 tickets.

The number of minor offense tickets this year was so low staff of the prosecutor's office said there may not be a reason to run the annual special pretrial diversion program in the future. This year, only 102  tickets were issued. 

The numbers have been dropping for years.

Some staff said it was the weekend’s weather. Others theorized IU’s students are getting more responsible. One said law enforcement might be going easy on them. 

The Little 500-specific program was created to avoid a clog in Monroe County’s legal system following “The Greatest College Weekend in America.” It allows those ticketed for minor offenses such as underage drinking or public intoxication to avoid misdemeanor or felony charges.

Those ticketed during Little 500 weekend who choose to participate in the program — which is voluntary — do community service Sunday and complete drug and alcohol education classes sometime during the week. If they stay out of trouble for a year, the charge appears as dismissed on their record.

Those who opt out of the program funnel through standard legal channels.

Robert Miller, Monroe County’s chief deputy prosecuting attorney, has practiced law in Bloomington since 1986. He said this weekend’s ticketing numbers were especially low.

“This year was actually no worse than a normal football weekend,” he said.

Miller said the county might need to consider whether the program is still cost-effective and necessary to keep.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Tom Rhodes said he remembered a year in the early 1990s when about 440 people were ticketed. Another probation officer said he thought it got as high as 700 one year.

“I’ve been here 28 years, and this is the absolute lowest I’ve seen it,” Rhodes said.

A waiting room in the Charlotte T. Zietlow Justice Center was lined with young adults clutching legal papers and looking at the ground Sunday morning. The room was nearly silent.

Aside from a few nervous-looking college kids wearing suits and one pacing, waiting on a call from his lawyer, the scene looked a lot like driver’s ed.

A group of about 40 people shuffled into a room in a line, sat down and looked at their feet. They shifted in their seats. Their instructor repeated directions over and over. They gazed up at a blue PowerPoint presentation.

“Pretrial diversion program: the basics,” the first slide read.

Jeremy Cooney, the program’s director, explained those basics.

Don’t lose the paperwork. Don’t steal the pens. Pay the $429, pick up some trash, learn about responsible drinking and be on your way. Stay out of trouble.

“We’d like to see you get on with your life,” he said.

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