Local efforts will target underage drinking

A local coalition and Douglas County law enforcement agencies are conducting three programs aimed at curbing underage drinking, the use of fake IDs and drunken driving.

Coalition members said the efforts coincide with the recent return of Kansas University students to campus for the new school year.

“It will be nice this fall to have three different efforts going on,” said Jen Jordan, director of prevention for DCCCA and a member of The New Tradition Coalition of Lawrence. “It pretty much says that underage drinking isn’t going to be tolerated, accepted or allowed in Lawrence.”

The coalition has contributed grant funding to allow Lawrence police to conduct extra patrols this semester that will specifically target underage drinking at parties and violations of social hosting laws, which can punish property owners or adults who provide a place for people younger than 21 to drink alcohol. Officers conducted a similar patrol on Stop Day last May in which nine people were ticketed, Jordan said.

Local and state law enforcement agencies are also participating for a third time in the Fake ID 101 information and enforcement campaign. The kickoff began Sunday at Lawrence Arts Center as representatives from local agencies provided training, including on how to detect fake IDs, for local alcohol servers and retailers. More than 150 staff members from 31 bars and restaurants and three liquor stores attended. Jordan said organizers were pleased with the turnout, even though they wished more retailers would have attended.

Also as part of Fake ID 101, Lawrence police and other officers will conduct special enforcement, including KU football game day patrols in neighborhoods and having plainclothes officers check IDs at bars. During the spring and fall semesters in 2010, 117 people were cited for 241 different violations as part of the operation.

“Students need to be aware of the very real consequences for getting caught drinking underage,” said Karen Price, enforcement agent with the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. “The penalties can be severe and include fees and fines that could exceed $1,000.”

Sgt. Trent McKinley of the Lawrence Police Department said in these special patrols officers often come across some underage drinkers more than once, and they ruin their one chance at using diversion to avoid a conviction.

“They may not realize it, but you can’t get a diversion for the second one,” McKinley said. “There will be a conviction on their record.”

Lawrence police and Douglas County Sheriff’s officers in recent weeks have also used state grant money to fund overtime for patrols targeting drunken driving and other traffic violations.

Lawrence police last weekend also conducted a sobriety check lane from 11:15 p.m. Friday to 2:15 a.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of Tennessee Street in which 348 vehicles were stopped. Sgt. Matt Sarna, a police spokesman, said officers made nine DUI arrests, plus three arrests for having an open container and three for a minor in possession of alcohol.