Wednesday, October 2, 2013

UNDERAGE DRINKING – Risky Business

The Overland Park Police Department is proud to have a partnership with the Blue Valley School District, the Shawnee Mission School District and Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.  This partnership is enhanced through our Community Policing Section’s School Resource Officers (SRO’s).  SRO’s work with school administrators, parents and students to provide instruction on a variety of topics.  One of the topics, the dangers of underage drinking, is typically covered during Prom season and prior to summer release.
 
In an effort to inform you of some of the prevention initiatives the Police Department conducts to combat underage drinking I wanted to share some of the activities from this past summer.  Studies and research have shown underage drinking can impair neurological development, increases risky sexual behavior and can lead to serious injury or death.  A recent nationwide report showed 19 percent of drivers aged 16-20 involved in a fatal crash had a blood alcohol concentration of over .08. 

Our community has seen traffic crashes involving underage persons who have been drinking.  Consequently, we place a strong emphasis on underage alcohol enforcement and education.  This past summer the Community Policing and Problem Solving Section (COPPS) provided education and conducted enforcement to impact this problem. 

First, the Police Department hosted an educational seminar for owners and managers of liquor stores and alcohol establishments.  The seminar included representatives from the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Regional Prevention Council, City Prosecutor, Codes Compliance, and police and fire departments.  Attendees also learned how to spot a fraudulent identification card. 

Officers were given special training on how to spot fraudulent identification, applying liquor laws and City ordinances and controlled dispersal techniques were discussed. 

An enforcement initiative was conducted throughout the summer months.  Officers, in plain clothes, conducted surveillance at 173 liquor stores and 12 alcohol establishments with the goal of interdicting minors using fraudulent identification to purchase alcohol. 

Officers also responded to noise complaints and tips of underage drinking.  When following up on one such tip officers discovered a large house party.  The occupants refused to answer the door.  A search warrant was obtained and served.  This one investigation resulted in 34 minors being charged with possessing or consuming alcohol and the host was charged with Unlawful Hosting Minors through the Johnson County District Court. 

Officers then partnered with Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Enforcement Agents to conduct controlled buys at liquor license locations throughout the City.  The agents and officers conducted 87 controlled buys and cited 12 employees for furnishing alcohol to a minor.  Although enforcement was not the goal of the project the end result was the initiative served as an educational tool for owners and managers.  A partnership to stress the importance of checking identification to ensure alcoholic beverages are not sold to minors was forged. 

We will continue to proactively address underage drinking this Prom season and beyond.  It is our goal to continue our education efforts and to conduct enforcement initiatives to serve as a warning to anyone considering furnishing or hosting minors, as well as being a warning to minors who are considering purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages.