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Town continues crackdown on underage drinking

August 09, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Paul Gealy said he knew the Shepherdstown Underage Drinking Project was successful when fraternity members asked him when it would end.

Instead of ending the program, officials announced Friday they plan to step up their efforts aimed at ending underage drinking at Shepherd College and the surrounding community.

"One of the things I heard from a fraternity is 'When is this going to be over?' and I said, 'Maybe never,'" Gealy said.

Shepherdstown Police and the Free Our Citizens of Unhealthy Substances (FOCUS) Coalition held a news conference Friday to discuss the plans to increase "party patrols," where police officers plan to show up at parties to search for underage drinkers. They also will pass out more brochures about the health risks of alcohol.

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In addition, the Shepherdstown Police Department, with assistance from the Shepherd College Police, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and West Virginia State Police, plans to work additional overtime assignments to go after drunken drivers, said Shepherdstown Police Chief Cecil Arnold.

The Shepherdstown Underage Drinking Project was kicked off last March after five months of study and planning.

Town and college officials believed that a lot of the vandalism and other petty crimes around the campus and the community can be attributed to young people drinking irresponsibly and then making poor decisions, said Gealy, a community development specialist for the FOCUS Coalition.

Since the program's kickoff, police officers have worked overtime about three nights a week, going after drunken drivers and underage drinkers, Arnold said.

Arnold said a sign of the program's success is that the number of people arrested for driving under the influence has dropped considerably. So far, seven people have been charged with DUI, compared to 20 in the same period last year, despite the increase in patrols.

"The perception in town is the college isn't doing anything. But the college is doing quite a bit," Gealy said.

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