Underage drinking crackdown shifts from bars to parties

Law enforcement agencies in Douglas County are shifting their efforts to crack down on underage drinking this spring from bars to neighborhoods and house parties.

A team of Lawrence police, Kansas University police and Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control officers last Friday night patrolled areas around the Oread neighborhood. ABC officers did cite a caterer at an event at the Sigma Chi Fraternity, 1439 Tenn., alleging the catering company allowed minors to possess alcohol, failed to notify the ABC and police department of the event and allowed people to remove alcohol from the premises, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence police spokesman.

“We had an idea there was going to be a party there, even though we didn’t get the proper legal notification,” McKinley said.

The enforcement was part of a local Fake ID 101 task force, and the officers on the patrol were given overtime through a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation. Task force officers during the fall semester focused on underage drinking and fake IDs at Lawrence bars, but McKinley said last Friday’s operation shifted the focus to house parties and violations away from the bar scene.

“Springtime is a busy time in Lawrence when it comes to underage drinking,” said Jen Jordan of the Draw the Line Lawrence coalition. “There is prom and graduation, as well as college parties.”

Jordan said that last year 79 percent of high school sophomores in Lawrence and 84 percent of seniors in a survey said they thought if teens drank alcohol in their own neighborhood, the police would not catch them.

“We know that perception drives behavior,” she said.

McKinley said that officers, some of whom were in plain clothes and some in uniform, ticketed 11 people Friday as part of the patrol. Some received more than one charge on their ticket.

Eight citations were issued for a minor in possession of alcohol, and four were for possession or use of a fake ID or another’s driver’s license. Police also issued three citations for carrying an open container in public. Two people were arrested for driving under the influence, although McKinley said at least one of those arrests occurred in west Lawrence after officers were ending their patrol.

The caterer for the event at Sigma Chi, Bartenders on the Go of Topeka, received a hearing date for its administrative citation. McKinley said caterers are required to notify both the ABC and chief of police about events they are handling.

“It’s important for us to check compliance at those type of events,” he said.

Blaine Kaehr, the Sigma Chi chapter president, said Tuesday the fraternity was still investigating the incident. A woman who answered the phone at the catering business Tuesday asked a report to call back later, but officials at the business could not be reached later in the day.

McKinley said the task force plans to conduct additional operations this spring.