News – Social Host

Halloween party ends with parents and multiple teen arrested, teens trying to escape in flood waters rescued

November 2, 2015 — FRIENDSWOOD, TX (KTRK) — A Halloween party on the evening of October 31, in Friendswood, near Houston, resulted in 11 arrests and the deployment of rescue assets from three police agencies and the local fire department. The party was held at the home of Gregory Brian Kennedy, 56, and Kelly Meadows Kennedy, 56, of Friendswood, and was hosted by their 17-year-old daughter, Delaney Dawn Kennedy.   “I did not have a booze party for a bunch of teenagers,” said homeowner Kelly Kennedy. “The whole time planning this, I said absolutely no alcohol will be tolerated.”

Cities to “social host ordinances” laws to hold adults accountable for parties with underage drinking

underagedrinking1From fights and alcohol poisoning to sexual assault, car accidents and death, none of the unintended repercussions of underage drinking are positive.

Attempting to head such consequences off at the pass, Valley cities in AZ increasingly are turning to local “social host ordinances,”laws that hold adults accountable for permitting parties where kids and underage adults are drinking.  The Mesa ordinance would apply in situations ranging from gatherings at private homes to events thrown by “party crews” who charge underage guests to attend, and to illegal drugs as well as alcohol. A first-time violator would pay a $250 civil fine or attend a four-hour awareness course.

A second violation within three years would result in a $1,000 fine. A third violation, again within three years, would be a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a $2,500 fine and three years of probation.

“Over the last two years, we’ve written about 156 underage-drinking-related citations (while on party patrol). We’ve also sent eight individual juveniles to the hospital for drinking,” Mesa Assistant Police Chief John Meza said. “The scope of the problem — we know that it’s there. The goal of this ordinance is not necessarily to penalize criminally or through fines, however … The primary goal is for awareness.”  The Mesa Prevention Alliance, which worked with police to develop the draft ordinance, found in its 2013-14 community survey that 30percent of Mesa respondents believed it was OK for kids to drink at home.

Finter described a party he’d observed while accompanying police officers on party patrol, where two minor girls “were being encouraged and enticed and heavily intoxicated to the point of requiring emergency medical assistance.”

While Arizona law essentially requires police to prove that violators knew guests with access to alcohol were underage, some cities and towns have implemented social-host ordinances that typically allow for “strict liability.” That means even parents who were on vacation and didn’t know teenagers were throwing a party on their property could be held responsible and fined if a police officer is called to the scene.

Jim Mosher, a California-based expert on alcohol policy and social-host-ordinance consultant, argued property owners should be taking steps to secure their homes before leaving if they have underage relatives.  “These ordinances are about taking it from the passive, where maybe you’re responsible after you’ve found out something bad has happened, to where homeowners and parents take proactive steps to not allow these parties,” Mosher said. “We want to create a social norm where parents are making sure this doesn’t happen on their property, and I think this is an appropriate way to do it because it doesn’t criminalize or stigmatize people unless it becomes repetitive.”

Mosher said social-host ordinances have been proliferating nationwide over the past decade, but specifics and implementation methods have varied based on community makeups.  Early adopters Tempe and Buckeye, for example, have distinct population breakdowns and neighborhood types.  In Tempe, where Arizona State University contributes to a massive underage student population, the city’s social-host ordinance has allowed officers to “get a grasp on a very big problem,” according to Tempe police spokesman Mike Pooley.

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