. -->

Treat underage drinking like drug abuse by William G. Parenti – North Plainfield Police Chief and President of the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police

Courier News Article with QR Scan

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says alcohol is the drug of choice among young adults. By the time teens graduate high school, half say they drink alcohol regularly with the greatest usage occurring between grades 6 and 12. Even though alcohol is classified as a drug, many parents, because they might imbibe themselves, do not think of alcohol as being a drug. However, because alcohol can become addictive or incite mood changes, it is just as dangerous as any other illicit drug.

Individuals under the legal age to buy alcoholic beverages have to realize the consequences of purchases and drinking. Liquor stores, restaurants, and bars have to be committed to responsible service. Parents, friends, neighbors, or relatives should also play an active role. If they purchase any alcoholic beverage for an underage person, they commit an unlawful act and could be liable for the actions of the underage person. When 10-18 year olds were asked the question, "How do you and your friends get the alcohol you drink?", a majority (65%) of those who have consumed alcohol in the past year cited family and friends as the leading source for getting alcohol. If you learn of underage drinking or someone leaving a place that is intoxicated, call 911; an underage drinker or a drunk driver is an emergency requiring swift action.

Working to restrict access to alcohol by those under the legal drinking age should be a priority in every household. People have to realize that no matter how an underage drinking party ends up, children lose by facing the danger of serious car crashes, alcohol poisoning, and a lifetime of lost employment opportunities. New Jersey has a zero tolerance for underage alcohol possession or consumption.

Enforcement for this program will include roving patrols in strategic locations chosen throughout the County. A ‘Cop in Shops’ program joins forces with retailers and law enforcement officers to help stop illegal underage alcohol sales and to prevent adults from buying alcohol for minors. This involves teams of police officers placed in strategic alcohol retail outlets. The program consists of an undercover police officer working inside the liquor establishment while a second officer, positioned outside, will apprehend adults purchasing alcohol for youth.

In addition to the state statutes, some communities, like North Plainfield where I serve, have ordinances that prohibit underage possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages on private property.

Holidays are a time to enjoy the company of families and friends. Unfortunately, it also when tragedy strikes and many young drivers lose their lives or are severely injured in alcohol related traffic crashes. The goal of this extraordinary partnership is to enable loved ones to enjoy being at the table with families or friends during the upcoming holiday season. Enjoy the holidays by staying sober and make sure your underage children do the same!