[There’s no rhythm to crime here. All hell could be breaking loose before noon and things could be stock-still after midnight. The young toughs are often on horseback and they prefer baseball bats and knives to pistols. Drugs are everywhere— weed, meth, cocaine— but on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, it’s almost exclusively alcohol that gives law enforcement fits.
“They go into detox or a holding cell for 8 hours then get an hour of community service,” said Becky Sotherland, an officer with the tribal police. “Sometimes they’re out before your shift is over, causing trouble.”
Alcohol has been illegal on the reservation since 1889 (aside from a few months in the 1970s) but tribal police say that of the roughly 200,000 calls they receive each year, about 80% are alcohol-related. Sometimes it’s public drunkenness, fights or domestic violence. Drunk driving is a major killer, and community groups say alcoholism contributes to the reservation’s plague-high suicide rate.
The fight to keep the tribe sober may soon be getting tougher. Last summer, tribal members voted to repeal the reservation’s century-old ban on liquor sales and consumption. The repeal won’t likely take effect for some time, as the Tribal Council must write new alcohol-related laws.]