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Police work to prevent underage drinking

May 21, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Washington County law enforcement officials said Thursday that during prom and graduation season they'll raid parties where alcohol is served to minors.

In a press conference held at Hagerstown Police Department headquarters, Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. said that as area high school students prepare to don formal clothes and graduation gowns, the temptation for them to drink alcohol will increase.

In turn, police officials said they will increase patrols of area high schools and surrounding neighborhoods over the next month.

Washington County Sheriff's Department 1st Sgt. Bob Leatherman said police will listen aggressively and watch for parties that are thrown for minors.

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Smithsburg Police Department Chief Mike Potter said "saturation patrols" will be sent out around the big days for the town's high school students.

Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith said adults who host or coordinate an illegal party face a risk. "There's a lot of things that could go wrong that could give you criminal and civil liability," he said.

Long said parents who throw parties to celebrate a prom or graduation often think that if they allow alcohol at their house they can keep youths from leaving the party intoxicated.

"I think there are many well-intentioned parents," he said. But he said that despite their intentions, those parents are breaking the law and will be prosecuted.

"What we really want to avoid is tragedy," he said.

Andrea Harris, the program manager for prevention services at the Washington County Health Department, provided the following national statistics:

  • 50 percent of all juvenile deaths on highways are alcohol related.

  • Eight out of 10 youths have consumed alcohol by their senior year of high school.

  • 80 percent of police calls related to youths involve alcohol.

    "It's better to make the hard, right decision as opposed to the easy, wrong decision," Leatherman said.

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