Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chapel Hill police have written twice as many citations for underage drinking this year as during the same period last year. They want to do even more to stop high schoolers from drinking, though, so they plan to start a party patrol.
Officers on party patrol will try to break up gatherings involving underage drinking or prevent them from happening altogether. To help prepare for this new assignment, officers threw a mock party Monday night as a training exercise.
Chapel Hill police said of the dozen or so parties they break up in a year, about half involve high school students.
The parties include "kids that are 16, 17, sometimes even younger, so obviously that raises some concern with us,” said Lt. Kevin Gunter.
"We are seeing kids as young as 9 and 10 years old taking their first drink. The average first-drink nationwide for kids is 12 years of age,” said Nancy McGee of the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center. "The large parties have a tendency to command a lot of resources, get out of control, and create problems within the community."
One of those problems is drinking and driving, especially when police show up and party-goers scatter.
"We are getting tips from students who have heard about these parties. We are getting tips from parents,” Gunter said.
Those tips are something police want to build on. Orange County will soon have an anonymous tip line for people to call if they hear about underage drinking parties in the works.