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ETX Sheriff and pastor disagree over alcohol impact on communities

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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

With less than 30 days before voters head to the polls, an East Texas sheriff is speaking out about a survey he conducted on the impact of alcohol sales in Texas communities.

Smith County Sheriff J. B. Smith says law enforcement agencies in 25 Texas communities told him there was no negative impact on crime rates or litter after voters chose to allow alcohol sales in their communities.

"We asked, 'Did the sale of alcohol in your community increase crime? Did it increase litter?'," Smith says.

Of the 28 cities contacted, 25 responded to the survey.

"The 25 who responded to us said the same thing, 'No, it did not,'" Smith says.

From Amarillo to Lubbock and Longview, Sheriff Smith says the consensus was clear.

"I thought it was important to do this survey and the reason is, when it comes to wet and dry elections, people become very emotional," Smith says.

East Texan Jeffrey Barlow says he has struggled with alcoholism his entire life.

"I can't say there's a positive in it," he says.

Barlow says he has had seven DWIs in 30 years and is strongly against beer and wine sales in Tyler.

"The kids will be out in the parking lots getting people like me to go in and buy it for them," Barlow says.

"If [people are] going to vote for it or against it, they don't need to use crime or litter as an excuse," Smith says.

"I don't know where the issue of litter came in. We're concerned about the litter of bodies that are maimed because of alcohol... the litter of little children and their families that are destroyed," said Landmark Baptist Church Pastor Mike Daniels.

Daniels says Sheriff Smith is a friend, but he won't take the survey to heart.

"Even the people on the other side have enough sense to know this is not true," Daniels says.

Sheriff Smith says he understands why citizens are passionate about the issue.

"A lot of people in the community have friends or kin that have alcohol problems, and you can certainly understand why they feel the way they do," says Smith.

Daniels says he's not convinced the cities who Smith surveyed were asked the appropriate questions.

"What did they say alcohol sales did good for them? What did their doctors say and their ER rooms and their alcohol anonymous [programs]," asks Daniels.

Smith says he contacted the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to find out which cities across the state had gone "wet" in the last 10 years. He says he also surveyed local communities, like Longview, who had been "wet" for longer. The 28 Texas communities that Smith contacted include:

Abilene, Allen, Amarillo, Angelina County, Beaumont, Belton (Bell County), Celina, Denton, Greenville, Jacksonville, Longview, Lubbock, Lumberton, McKinney, Midlothian, Mineola, Plano, Princeton, Rockwall, Rowlett, Rusk, Southlake, Temple, Vidor, Waco, Westlake, and Willow Park.

He says Celina, Princeton and Waco did not respond to his survey.

Smith adds that Midlothian and Rockwall, Texas actually told him introducing alcohol sales to the community decreased their crime rates. However, Smith says he does not know what they attribute that to.

Daniels says people who are against [the alcohol referendum] can contact him here.

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