Several high school seniors, beer in hand, were spotted by police last Saturday night as they were making their way from their cars to a graduation drinking party in the 700 block of 7th St. S.E. near the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
Fourteen officers working with Pierce County’s Party Intervention Patrol began shutting the outdoor pool and garage party down just before midnight as 49 kids, ages 16-18, began to ramp up their celebration.
In addition to alcohol, police found marijuana and two beer bongs. Police also found red cups set-up to play beer pong, a popular underage drinking game in which losers must consume alcohol from multiple, large cups.
The mother and father of two of the underage revelers were home asleep at the time police arrived. The parents, as well as the siblings hosting the party, face charges of providing premises for underage drinking, a gross misdemeanor.
“Parents are legally responsible for underage drinking on their property, even if they claim to be unaware of or do not give permission for it to occur,” says Officer Micah Wilson, Puyallup Police Department.
The 29 party-goers were arrested for Minors In Possession (MIP) and transported to a community center where chemical dependency professionals provided them with alcohol and drug information, including information about the dangers of binging. The recent high school grads also were given referrals, where needed, to substance abuse agencies.
Upon arrival to the processing center to pick-up their kids, parents met with parent volunteers who shared strategies with them for talking to their children about alcohol and drugs and keeping tabs on their teen’s nighttime activities, including driving.
The primary aim of the nearly two-year-old party intervention patrol, the only one of its kind in the country, is to get tools into the hands of teens and their parents to prevent alcohol-related injuries and deaths, especially impaired teen driving.
“We had eight impaired teen driving fatalities last year, down from 15-18 deaths for the previous eight year period,” said Mike Mitchell, Chief of the Bonney Lake Police Department and Chair of the Tacoma Pierce County DUI Task Force. “The reduction in fatalities doesn’t represent a trend yet, but we think we are beginning to save lives through this project.”
The Tacoma Pierce County DUI X-52 Emphasis Patrol, which took place on the same night in East Pierce County, dedicated its patrol to Beau Bockmann, a 19-year old driver who was killed in August of 2007 at 214th St. E. and the Sumner Buckley Highway by a 17-year-old impaired driver who had been previously drinking at an underage party.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department-hosted emphasis patrol in which 27 officers participated and five members of Beau’s surviving family rode along, resulted in 310 drivers being stopped for unsafe driving and 20 drivers being arrested for impaired driving, including one 16-year-old. Six additional drivers were arrested on outstanding warrants and five under the age of 21 were arrested for MIP.
Participating in the special dedication and side-by-side party intervention and DUI emphasis patrols were the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Pierce County Prosecutors Office, the Washington State Patrol and the Fife, Bonney Lake, Edgewood, Sumner, Puyallup, Lakewood, University Place, Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Fircrest Police Departments. Additional participants in the party intervention patrol, funded by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and Washington States Reducing Underage Drinking Coalition included the Washington State Liquor Control Board, Tacoma Trauma Trust and Pierce County Human Services.