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Staff photo, Shea Johnson
If adopted, Barstow will join nine San Bernardino County cities in adding a “Social Host” ordinance to their municipal code to target underage drinking.

‘Social Host' ordinance to tackle underage drinking

Barstow to join nine San Bernardino County cities with legislation

Underage drinking statistics:

12 — average age a person first uses alcohol in San Bernardino County

5% — amount of minors who say it’s difficult to access alcohol

9 — amount of cities in San Bernardino County with a social host ordinance enacted

4:1 — ratio of teens who die from alcohol abuse versus other illicit drugs

2/3 — fraction of sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students linked to alcohol

Sources: Barstow SAFE Coalition, MCLB substance abuse counselor Manny Llanura, and Barstow Police Chief Albert Ramirez

BARSTOW • The first draft of a city ordinance that would aid local police in combating underage drinking was unanimously approved at Monday night’s city council meeting.

The proposed “Social Host” ordinance would place the responsibility of underage drinking and illegal substance use at a social gathering on the host of the gathering, according to the draft.

“While a variety of legal mechanisms do exist to address these scenarios, the city does not currently have any municipal code section which explicitly prohibits social hosts from providing minors with alcoholic beverages and other illegal controlled substances,” Barstow Police Chief Albert Ramirez said at the meeting.

Ramirez said these types of gatherings have been identified as a growing public safety threat and communities that have already adopted similar ordinances have seen decreases in physical altercations, injuries, neighborhood vandalism and excessive noise disturbances.

In San Bernardino County the following cities have already adopted a social host ordinance, according to Ramirez: Big Bear Lake, Colton, Fontana, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, Victorville and the unincorporated areas of the county.

Manny Llanura, a substance abuse counselor for 18 years who currently works at the Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base, shared his support of the ordinance at the council meeting.

“Unfortunately the culture with the high school people and teens right now, their perception is, it’s very easy to have access to alcohol,” Llanura said. “Only five percent say it’s difficult, and they have access to alcohol in private parties.”

According to data gathered by the Barstow SAFE (Substance Abuse-Free Environment) Coalition, most underage drinking takes place in private settings, such as house parties, and the average age for a person to have their first sip of alcohol is 12 years old in San Bernardino County.

“Underage drinking at house parties needs to be addressed because teens are putting their lives at risk every time they drink,” said teenager and Barstow Youth Advisory Council member Justina Crigler. “I’ve recently learned about research that the earlier children begin drinking the more likely they are to develop a dependency on alcohol. From what I’ve seen by the time students are in high school, it can be too late to stop them.”

The second reading and vote to adopt the ordinance will take place at the next city council meeting on April 15. If adopted, the ordinance would take effect 30 days later, according to the meeting agenda.

Contact the writer: 760-256-4123 or

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