By Alex Wycoff
The Manhattan Beach Police Department received a Bureau of Alcohol Beverage Control grant in Fall of 2011 that provides resources for officers to enforce laws over liquor licenses and underage drinking and allows the department to operate juvenile sting operations.
The resulting program, called Party Patrol, has been used to reduce underage drinking. While the idea has merits, it is a misguided way to combat underage drinking.
According to Mira Costa School Resource Officer John Loy, the grant is usually one year long and gives a police department more resources to crack down on minors who purchase alcohol, minors in possession of alcohol and the adults that provide alcohol to people under the age of 21.
Although tickets are costly for these offenses, they will ultimately not discourage underage drinking. A small fine is usually not enough to dissuade people from committing these crimes.
Instead of simply trying address every possible situation of underage drinking, police should do their job regularly, responding to party calls when a reason to do so arises, such as a noise complaint. This would ensure police departments save time and resources. This way, police could ensure they only spend time and money responding to parties that actually cause community issues.
There could also be more educational talks in schools about what can happen as a result of binge drinking as a preventative measure, instead of just cracking down on a party after it has already happened.
Mira Costa’s People Achieving Completely Equality group already takes many steps to raise awareness for drug abuse, and further programs against underage drinking would complement them well.
Such a program would be effective because it would not only dissuade minors from partying and drinking, but could also catch repeat offenders and submit them to rehabilitation and sobriety programs.
Statistics taken in 1994, before the grants, show that there were roughly 3,500 alcohol-related deaths in California of people over fifteen. Statistics taken in 2007, showed roughly 4,000 deaths that year, though only 3,000 in 2009. These varying numbers show no correlation between changes in policy and alcohol-related deaths.
This leads many to come to the conclusion that aggressive programs targeting teen drinking often have unfounded results. Because of this, police departments should crack down on parties on a case-by-case basis, instead of taking such a broad approach, like with Party Patrol.
Some students from Costa have encountered the Party Patrol, though this has only resulted in bitterness at their punishment. Preventive measures would save hassles in the beginning, instead of simply being reprimanded once illegal activities such as underage drinking occur.
In addition to further in-school programs, police departments should focus on preventing minors from obtaining alcohol in the first place. A main avenue for teens to obtain liquor is through counterfeit
driver’s licenses, and increased scrutiny at liquor stores with police assistance would help to combat this facet of the issue.
Although the idea of combating underage drinking is worthy of praise, the approach currently taken could use improvements. By focusing on prevention instead of punishment, police departments can effectively reduce instances of underage alcohol abuse.