Police arrest 59 in weekend underage drinking patrol

Four underage drinking parties in the Sumner, Puyallup and Gig Harbor areas led to 59 youth being arrested for alcohol violations March 28. Eight adults were cited for furnishing alcohol to minors at the parties during the special Spring Break patrol.

The youth ranged in age from 15 to 20.

Police summoned emergency aid for an 18-year-old girl who attended a Key Peninsula party that drew 31 underage drinkers. The girl, with a preliminary blood alcohol level of .257, was taken to the hospital for potential alcohol poisoning.

Sgt. Kelly Busey of the Gig Harbor Police Department said the intervention patrols were partly designed to put the cork on weekend parties as early as possible to prevent potentially lethal binge drinking.

In Puyallup, law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant to enter a rented home where four adults were discovered to have supplied alcohol to youth under the age of 21. The renters had just moved in at 4 p.m. that day. The search warrant was served at 4 a.m. Sunday, and the renters had been evicted by Monday afternoon. A mattress, the only furniture in the home, was found by police, along with recently used condoms.

After their arrests, 58 of the 59 young drinkers chose to speak to a chemical dependency professional at two specially set-up community centers. The youth were referred, as needed, to substance abuse and other helping agencies. Additionally, 20 parents who came to pick up their children were given information from parent volunteers about teen alcohol use and what they can do to prevent it.

In the past five years, 222 drivers who had been drinking were in a vehicular collision in Pierce County. “We are happy to say that none of the impaired teens arrested at these four parties with blood alcohol levels ranging from .02 to .257 got behind the wheel Saturday night,” said Mike Mitchell, chief of the Bonney Lake Police Department and chairman of the Tacoma-Pierce County DUI Task Force.

The special intervention included 32 law enforcement officers from the Gig Harbor, Fife, Puyallup, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Edgewood, Orting and University Place police departments, along with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Washington State Liquor Control Board and the Washington State Patrol. Additionally, 10 community and police department volunteers and four chemical dependency professionals provided help to the teens and their families.

The East Pierce County intervention patrol was sponsored by Pierce County Leadership for Alcohol- and Drug-free Youth, the Tacoma Trauma Trust, the Tacoma-Pierce County DUI Task Force, and the Puyallup Police Department. The Gig Harbor Police Department, with assistance from the Community Empowerment Group, sponsored the life-saving patrol on Key Peninsula. Funding was provided by participating police departments, Pierce County Human Services/Chemical Dependency Prevention, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the Washington State Reducing Underage Drinking Coalition.