Authorities and volunteers throughout Pierce County are waging their annual crackdown on underage drinking at parties by teenagers this summer.
The Party Intervention Patrol uses police, chemical-dependency professionals and parent volunteers, along with funding from the Washington Impaired Driving Council. The effort has reduced the number of deaths in Pierce County attributed to impaired teen drivers by more than 50 percent since the project, coordinated by the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force, began in 2007.
Task force members include Pierce County Sheriff Depatment and Eatonville Police Department.
The reduction in teenagers’ driving deaths “computes to 12 more youth living to see their 21st birthday than before we started this project,” said Fircrest Police chief John Cheesman, the chairman of the task force.
Acting on a tip on a recent June weekend, police went to a home in east Pierce County and arrested 32 underage drinkers and the parents of a daughter for allowing the family’s residence to be used for an after-graduation drinking party for the girl and friends.
Officers found a keg in a garage that was strewn with empty beer, wine and liquor bottles. Paramedics were called to evaluate the daughter for possible alcohol poisoning after officers found her on her bed, unresponsive amid pools of vomit.
Most of the arrested youths were from Puyallup and Emerald Ridge high schools.
After years of Party Intervention Patrols in Pierce County, “you’d think parents would re-think their don’t ask, don’t tell policy when it comes to alcohol use, especially during prom and graduation season,” said Puyallup Police Sgt. Bob Thompson, a coordinator for the multi-agency patrols.
Officials noted that parents can keep their kids safe by keeping close tabs on their nighttime activities and asking for the details of their plans, especially for parties on family property. The parents who were arrested June 15 told police their daughter said the party would be alcohol-free.
Parents also can report the addresses of houses where suspected juvenile parties take place throughout the year, with or without adults present.
“Silence is never good when parents don’t report the parties in their own neighborhoods. Our goal is to get kids home safe and to give them another day to make a better decision,” said Liz Yotty, a parent volunteer with Party Intervention Patrol.