Police aim to curb underage drinking

by Town Reminder

Police aim to curb underage drinking
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Although it’s not a predominant issue in South Hadley, police are taking preventing measures to combat underage drinking.
Through a competitive grant released by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security [EOPSS], the South Hadley Police Department was awarded $3,962.98 to increase patrols focused specifically on combatting underage drinking.
Throughout the past two weeks, patrols of two-officer teams conducted surveillance or party patrols, during which South Hadley Police Lt. Steven Parentela said a couple of house parties were broken up and minors were deterred from procuring alcohol.
“We’re taking a more pro-active stance where we go out and try to find parties,” said Parentela.
The grant will fund a variety of law enforcement activities including: stings/compliance checks in bars, restaurants and retail locations; reverse stings; “shoulder tap” and “Cops in Shops” programs; and party patrols. Through a combination of these techniques, the department will be able to analyze and crack down on both minors who seek to circumvent the law and those people and businesses that allow them to do so.
Activities under this grant in the last year led to 217 youth citations and 189 arrests, and 87 adult citations and 64 arrests across the Commonwealth.
Surveillance patrols were conducted over the past two weekends in South Hadley simply using the presence of police officers in local establishments selling alcohol, such as bars and package stores.
Party patrols were conducted by seeking out areas in which youth typically gather to consume alcohol, such as residences, parking lots and wooded areas.
In one instance, police officers found under age youths hosting a party with evidence of alcohol in a home where the homeowner was out of town. In a second case, a party was held by underage youths in a home with the homeowner asleep.
“Our main focus is not to arrest people, but to educate the public and the people who are providing alcohol to minors,” said Parentela. Those individuals who provide alcohol to minors face criminal penalties. “Whether you sell it or give it to a minor, it’s still the same thing – illegal,” said Parentela.
Police can criminally charge adults and parents for allowing underage guests to consume alcohol in their home. The charge results in a fine of up to $2,000 and or imprisonment for up to one year.
Should a minor become hurt as a result of attending a party during which alcohol was consumed, the parents of the minor or the inured party themself can civilly charge the adults allowing underage drinking by brining a lawsuit against them.
Parentela and South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie said it’s difficult to measure the amount of underage drinking occurring in town, but it’s all relative. “We don’t have major areas where kids party every night,” said LaBrie. “But we’d like to address it community-wide and we need everybody’s help.”
To report underage drinking to the police department, call 538-8231 or leave an anonymous tip at the same number.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 nationwide, 33 percent of 15- to 20-year-olds killed in crashes had a blood alcohol content of .01 or higher. Compounding the problem, drivers who have been drinking are also less likely to use restraints. Also in 2009 nationwide, 60 percent of young drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were unrestrained. Of the young drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes, 70 percent were unrestrained.
Any loss or injury on our roadways is one too many. The South Hadley police department, in partnership with EOPSS, recognizes that traffic crashes are preventable, and is committed to using this grant to reduce the number of motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries in South Hadley.