Police, school and public service groups across Cobb County are joining forces to fight underage drinking. They’re taking aim at parents and other adults who provide alcohol to teens in stores, at neighborhood parties, and inside homes across the area.
Ten police, school and government agencies, plus MADD are working with the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce to investigate those who are selling and giving beer, alcopos and other alcoholic beverages to children. “This is not a youth problem, it’s an adult problem,” said Pat Giuliani, who chairs the Youth Services Committee of the Georgia PTA.
Police chiefs from Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna, Cobb Police, the Sheriff’s Office, the public schools, Kennesaw State, and Southern Polytechnic stood with representatives from MADD, the PTA, the Department of Revenue, the County Solicitor’s Office and the Cobb Alcohol Task Force at a news conference Thursday inside Kennesaw City Hall.
Armed with statewide numbers, Chief Lynda Coker of the Sheriff’s Office made the case against underage drinking, linking drunk teens to traffic crashes, violent crimes, accidents and risky sex. Here are some Georgia stats from 2006-2007:
- 56 traffic deaths
- 89 homicides
- 30,000 violent crimes
- 5,400 teen pregnancies
Coker spelled out state law, which can be confusing. Parents are allowed to serve their own children at home, but not other children.
Cobb County is aggressive about catching adults who serve kids. A new law offers young alcohol offenders a diversion program, but only if they reveal who supplied the drinks. DUI Court Solicitor Jeff Johnson said the program puts pressure on teens 17 – 20 years old, at a time when a criminal conviction may jeopardize their efforts to get into college, join the military or get a job.
In the last year, police across the county have conducted 384 store compliance checks, party patrols and other operations. 80% of businesses passed undercover inspections in the last year. Kennesaw Chief Bill Westenberger said they’re making progress, and they need more help from the public.
Police agencies are patrolling parties when they get nuisance calls from neighbors about noise and parking. They get tips through social media and flyers that circulate at schools.
Parties can be awkward for teens who don’t drink. Natasha Walker, co-chair of the CobbAT Youth Council is a junior at Marietta High. She explained how she handles the pressure.
Natasha and other Youth Council members will demonstrate what goes on at a teen drinking party on Saturday night, so adults can see what’s happening when they’re not around. The event will take place inside a private home in Marietta. Here’s a link to the registration page.