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Police association opposes proposed 4 a.m. closing time for bars

REGION — Warning that the change would pose serious threats to public health and safety, the San Diego County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association today announced its opposition to a state bill that proposes extending California’s daily alcohol sales cutoff time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy, president of the law enforcement group, asserted that Senate Bill 58 — which calls for allowing bars in 10 cities throughout the state to keep serving drinks for an extra two hours a day as part of a pilot project — would have negative effects on communities “that are within driving distance of the cities where the bars (would) stay open later.”

“Extending alcohol sales means more drunk drivers during early- morning commutes, more DUI crashes, more injuries and more deaths,” Kennedy said, adding that the change would “impact our ability to respond quickly to other emergencies.”

Under SB 58, bars in Cathedral City, Coachella, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Francisco and West Hollywood would be cleared to remain open two hours longer each night.

The change would affect more than three-quarters of the state’s population, according to a letter sent from the police association to the author of the bill, Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco.

Weiner introduced the proposed legislation in December, three months after outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill.

Proponents contend that the change would be an economic boon for areas with vibrant night-life scenes and high tourism levels.

Alcohol-related problems cost California more than $37 billion annually, including expenses related to public safety, crime, street collisions, injuries and illnesses, the San Diego-area law enforcement agency stated, citing studies by the nonprofit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

That fiscal hit would increase dramatically under the proposed extended alcohol-sales hours, resulting in an estimated 230 percent increase in fatalities and a 179 percent increase in injury traffic crashes, according to the association.

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