Immediate consequences and strict accountability are needed in the fight against underage drinking in eastern New Mexico, say law enforcement officials across eastern New Mexico.
“Teenage drinking is a issue that is very close to home,” said Jimmy Glascock, District 9 commander for the New Mexico State Police.
District 9 is based out of Clovis and covers Curry, De Baca, Guadalupe, Quay, Roosevelt and parts of Torrance, Harding and San Miguel county.
In a publication released in 2008 by the New Mexico Department of Transportation and University of New Mexico School of Law, alcohol consumption is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death in youths — motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and homicides.
Glascock says underage drinking is a huge issue that is still occurring in our area. The seasonal time for this type of crime is approaching with the temperatures starting to warm.
“We are entering that time of year,” Glascock said. “Spring break is right around the corner, followed by proms, graduation and summer. We want to secure public safety by sending a message that we will not look away, it is against the law and you will be responsible for your actions.”
The State Police are aggressively pursuing and charging minors who drink alcohol and they are going after adults who buy it for them.
“It is against the law to buy alcohol for a minor and there needs to be strict accountability for those that violate this law,” Glascock said.
The Portales Police Department follows very specific state case law when dealing with minors in possession of Alcohol, said Capt. Lonnie Barry.
“For an officer to arrest a juvenile for drinking, they have to be in possession of the alcohol, or caught in the act of consumption,” Barry said.
Barry said if an officer locates a juvenile that has been drinking they are normally released into the custody of their parents.
“The officer can not let the juvenile go, it is a safety issue,” Barry said. “The juvenile must be released to a parent or guardian.”
Barry said that the process does not stop with the juvenile’s release. The officer will write up a warrant for allowing self to be served and arrest the juvenile.
Following the arrest, the juvenile is transported to the Lovington juvenile detention center. That juvenile will later appear before the magistrate court judge or juvenile probation, Barry said.
“There can be a variety of sentencing based on the juvenile’s history,” Barry said. “The arrest, court appearance and penalties can be a wake up call for juvenile. They see that there is consequences for their actions.”
The Albuquerque City Commission addressed the underage drinking problem in 2001 by changing the city ordinance concerning minors and alcohol.
“The (police departmetn)is heavily enforcing the minors in possession or minors drinking violations,” said John Walsh, Albuquerque police spokesman. “The change has been a very helpful in the fight against underage drinking.”
Looking for a way to enforce the ordinance, Albuquerque police started the ‘Party Patrol’ in September 2001.
“The Party Patrol consists of special teams of officers, who respond to and investigates reports of underage drinking parties,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that the Party Patrol goes out and breaks up underage drinking parties. Minors are arrested for drinking and buying alcohol and the adults that buy the alcohol for the minors are arrested.
“In order to effectively address the problem you just can not hit the minors, you have to hit their supply line,” Walsh said.
Keeping in line with their purpose the Party Patrol, uses slogans such as “Disliked more than homework.”
Walsh said that the effectiveness of the code change and ‘Party Patrol is reflected by the decrease in arrest numbers over the past three years.
“In 2006 the Party Patrol recorded over 100 arrests in a single eight hour operation,” Walsh said. “Last month there were only 20 arrests in total. It was a slow start but once the word gets out that you are not going to tolerate underage drinking it really works out.”
MORE FACTS: Underage drinking
l Provide a variety of afterschool and alternative activities for youth using a mix of dedicated funding and volunteer efforts.
l Parents are encouraged to stay involved in their children’s lives and model responsible behavior. Intoxicated parents who get behind the wheel send the worst kind of message to their kids.
l Parents should discuss the false promises of alcohol advertising — i.e. fame, status, beauty, success, popularity — with their children.
l Sixty five percent of underage youth who drink obtain alcohol from older friends or brothers/sisters, not directly buying with fake ID cards.
l Alcohol consumption is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among young people— motor vehicle crash, suicide, and homicide. Youth alcohol use is strongly associated with many other life-altering risk behaviors such as unplanned pregnancy, academic failure, and DWI.
A costly problem
l Underage drinking cost the citizens of New Mexico $243 million in 2005. These costs include medical care and work loss but not pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth. This translates to a cost of $1,168 per year for each youth in the state.1New Mexico is #3 in the nation for the cost per youth of underage drinking.
l Young people who begin drinking before age 15 (early onset drinking) are five times as likely to develop alcohol dependence and over twice as likely to become abusers of alcohol as those who begin drinking at age 21.2In 2005, 42.3% of 9-12th graders reported current alcohol use in New Mexico (defined as having had at least one drink in the last 30 days).
l New Mexican youth in 2005 reported their most common alcoholic drink of choice was hard liquor — possibly because it is more palatable to youthful drinkers when concealed in soft drinks.
Source: 2008 NMDOT and University of New Mexico School of Law, publication.