Friday, June 25, 2010

Police take aim at underage drinking

Task force organized to keep youths away from booze


By EXPRESS STAFF

The Blaine County Community Drug Coalition and local law enforcement agencies have organized a new task force to help combat underage drinking.

According to a news release, the Blaine County Alcohol Compliance Task Force will focus on youth alcohol sales and will randomly check businesses to ensure compliance with the law.

"It is not our intent to sting any local businesses, but it is our commitment to valley parents that we will not tolerate underage purchases," said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter, the task force coordinator.

"Each business has been personally notified by their local law enforcement of the program's intent in hopes of achieving 100 percent compliance. Businesses will be notified on their results and the press will be regularly informed."

Training for people who sell alcohol has also been established as part of the task force program. A session is scheduled at Ketchum City Hall for Thursday, July 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $15 per attendee.

"Licensees are highly encouraged to seek this training for their employees who serve or sell alcohol," Gunter said.

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Drug Coalition Executive Director Terry Basolo said routine checks for business compliance is a nationally proven technique to reduce underage drinking.

"It is important to send a signal to the community that we care about these kids and will do what we can to limit access, through either underage purchases or the supply of alcohol to minors by adults," Basolo said.

"Why do we care? Alcohol seriously affects adolescent brain development and kills 6.5 times more young people every year than all other drugs combined. We know that a young person who starts drinking by the age of 15 has a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol addicted, six times the rate of those who wait until age 21.

"Usage rates for youth here are dramatically higher than state averages. We have a major pubic health concern."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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