Tsosie says laws need to be toughened

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan 19, 20112

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L ost in the dust-up between two tribal leaders meeting Sunday in a tiny Eastern Navajo chapter was the reason for the meeting - the almost total lack of law enforcement in the farthest eastern chapters.

Residents there say the lack of police presence is directly linked to, for instance, eight alcohol-related traffic fatalities on the area's main highway within the past year.

Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who represents eight chapters in the area, attended the meeting and later showed the Navajo Times a list of recommended changes that he plans to send to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

The solution, he said, was to have the state toughen existing liquor laws to provide better monitoring of liquor dealers.

One way of doing this is to require liquor dealers to stamp their own specific code on each liquor can or bottle they sell so law enforcement could trace where it was purchased if the driver is arrested for DWI or gets in an accident, Tsosie said.

This will allow the state to determine which outlets are serving drunk drivers and are contributing to the problem of drunk drivers on the area's highways, he added.

Tsosie also wants the state to be stricter in the transfer of liquor licenses and to prohibit transfers from one dealer to another if they have been cited for misconduct.

Ignoring past citations, he said, only "rewards bad liquor dealers."

If the state really wants to make a difference, Tsosie added, it should not allow any transfers at all in San Juan County since it already has more liquor dealers than are necessary and by prohibiting transfers, it would gradually reduce the number.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is the fact that the area is under multiple jurisdictions, which hampers communication and enforcement.

"Maybe the creation of a multi-jurisdictional zone along safety corridors can be done by law so that all law enforcement officers can enforce each jurisdiction's laws," Tsosie wrote in his letter.

He said he would also like the state to require all liquor dealers to install cameras to keep an eye on the liquor dealers and make sure they are complying with state law.

The state would be able to use the videotapes against the dealers if it was discovered that they were serving people who are already drunk or underage.

There also needs to be better monitoring of persons who have been convicted of multiple DWI convictions, he said.

One way of doing this may be to require those with multiple convictions to wear ankle monitors so they can be tracked via GPS and apprehended if they go to liquor stores.

And finally, Tsosie urged the state to "allow for the education of young children about the hazards of DWI."

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