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Ordinance targets house parties with underage drinking
Coalition proposes ‘social host' citations
BARSTOW • A local coalition is working to curb drug and alcohol use in teens, starting by drafting a city ordinance that will penalize those hosting parties where alcohol and controlled substances are provided to minors.
The newly formed Substance Abuse-Free Environment (SAFE) Coalition has begun drafting the “social host” ordinance, which they hope will eventually be presented to the City Council for a vote.
Around a large wooden table in the Barstow United Way office, a dozen or fewer coalition members met Monday afternoon to discuss what the ordinance will look like and what steps need to be taken to see the ordinance pass.
The ordinance would allow law enforcement to issue citations and possibly criminal charges to adults or youth who provide an environment where underage drinking is allowed, according to a report by the Institute for Public Strategies, the nonprofit organization supporting the coalition. Similar ordinances already exist in Victorville, San Bernardino and San Bernardino County.
“We believe in the need to reduce underage drinking and drug use in Barstow,” said Barstow Boys and Girls Club Director Anne-Shirley Harpole at the meeting. “We’re finding that it’s a huge problem, especially with prom and the dances. We’ve seen a lot of underage drinking in general.”
Nearly three-fourths of high school students in Barstow report that it’s “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get their hands on alcohol, according to a 2009-10 survey by the California Department of Education. Roughly the same percentage of teens also reported it was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain marijuana.
Former police lieutenant Rich Harpole said he’s seen a lot of these kinds of house parties where adults allows teens to drink or use drugs.
“There’s a lot of parents who have the mindset, ‘I’d rather have kids drinking in my house than somewhere else,’” Rich Harpole said at the meeting.
Mike Hunter, acting lieutenant of the Barstow Police Department, said when a draft of the ordinance is made, it can be submitted to the chief of police, then to the city manager for review. Once the city manager feels it’s ready, it can be submitted for the City Council to vote on.
“I feel it’s a good ordinance,” Hunter said. “At least if it’s there, the officers can use it as a tool.”
City Councilman Tim Saenz said he supports the ordinance and will vote on it if it ever comes before him. As a parent of teenagers, he said such an ordinance is a good step to curb an important issue facing Barstow teens.
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