Survey to probe problem of underage drinking

October 23, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When Shepherdstown Police Chief Cecil Arnold meets with people in the community, one problem that constantly comes up is underage drinking.

On Friday, the Shepherdstown Police Department will conduct a survey to find out how widespread the problem is.

The survey is part of a $149,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services.

Shepherdstown Police and the Clean-Focus Coalition sought the grant last year after a series of town meetings aimed at bringing police and residents together.

One of the problems that came up was underage drinking.

Residents and business owners complained that underage drinkers were loud and disorderly, vandalized, and lowered the quality of life in the community, Arnold said.


As part of the study, those answering the survey form will be asked their ideas for possible solutions, said Karen Hoff, executive director of the Clean-Focus Coalition, a local organization that works to curb drug use and other problems in Jefferson County.

Residents can pick up survey forms at Betty's Restaurant, 112 German St.; Mike's Barber Shop, 118 German St.; the Shepherdstown Public Library; Hair Design, Dr. Brian Palank's office, Dr. Jeff Kellogg's office and Potomac Family Medicine in the Maddex Professional Building; or at Hair Graphics in the Maddex Square Shopping Center. The survey also is available at the Shepherdstown Police Station and Town Hall.

The forms will take about 10 minutes to fill out, Hoff said.

The survey asks such questions as how big of a problem underage drinking is perceived to be and how those under the age of 21 obtain alcohol, Hoff said.

The information gathered will be used to formulate a plan to fight the problem, Hoff said.

"Communities tend to say `There's a problem and the police should fix it,'" Hoff said.

In this case, the residents will be asked to help come up with ways to solve the problem, she said.

The police are interested in information not just from Shepherdstown but throughout Jefferson County, Arnold said.

Hoff said the grant request had been made last year before recent news stories of alcohol-related deaths on college campuses.

She said the coalition and the town had thought the grant application had been lost when word came that the grant was being awarded.

Part of the grant money will go toward funding a police officer to work closely with college students, Hoff said.

Arnold said the federal government wants an analytical approach taken so the government can determine how successful the town's efforts are at fighting underage drinking.

Once the town comes up with a way to tackle the problem, the solution will be compared to other communities' efforts to see what is most effective, Arnold said.

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