Troopers patrol proms


Among the frilly gowns and slick tuxedos common at junior/senior proms, this year there is a glint of brass and black leather.

Determined to aggressively discourage underage drinking, troopers with the Maryland State Police in Washington County are attending high school proms and graduation ceremonies this spring.

"We go in full uniform and hang out inside and then check outside through the evening," said Sgt. Mike Hegedus, who is coordinating the "overtime hours" grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Hegedus said he has 288 overtime hours to work with for all underage drinking operations. Of that, 40 hours are specifically for targeting proms.

"The parents love it," said Hegedus. "We've already been to a few proms and there are more to come."

Troopers 1st Class Mike Kretzer and R.O. Fraley have been to one prom, Hegedus said.

"The only thing that happened that night was that someone showed up in a pickup truck with a cooler full of beer," Hegedus said. "They were turned away by our troopers."

The tactics used at proms are subtle, Hegedus said. "We don't frisk the kids when they go in or out, we just keep our eyes open."

Hegedus said troopers carry portable testing devices with them on such assignments and if they smell alcohol on a young person's breath, they will test for alcohol.

"If alcohol is found, citations will be issued," Hegedus said.

Hegedus acknowledged the main thrust of underage drinking enforcement is on kids buying alcohol illegally or having adults buy alcohol for them. Proms and graduations seemed a logical offshoot of that program, he said.

Now that warmer weather is here, troopers will frequent known party sites around Washington County. In those cases, troopers will be undercover and there will be many of them. Then uniformed officers will come in to issue citations and make sure no one leaves, Hegedus said.

"We find out about many of these parties via the Internet," Hegedus said. "And as far as private parties in homes where alcohol is provided ... if we find out about them, we will be there."

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