Concerned parents at Wakefield High School hope to stop underage drinking with a phone call.
Alcohol-related crashes killed five Wakefield students within a year. Last March, four students died when their car plunged off the U.S. Highway 64 bypass. Tests show the driver was drunk.
Ten months later, Wakefield senior Sadiki Young died when the car he was riding in crashed. Afterward, investigators had to deal with a wall of silence from other Wakefield students about the underage drinking that preceded the accident.
The 18-year-old driver from the crash has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Six other Wakefield students were arrested on alcohol-related charges in connection with the house party Young and the driver went to before the crash.
That's when Maria Chansler of Wakefield's Parent-Teacher-Student Association came up with the idea of a tip line. Chansler hopes people will report future parties and other illegal behavior to a new, toll-free number.
“We want our kids to come forward with their concerns and have no ramifications whatsoever,” she said.
An answering service will field the calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Operators will take down the information and forward it to the appropriate authorities. The system is completely anonymous.
Alcohol Law Enforcement director Mike Robertson says the more specific the tip, the better agents can respond.
“We'd go look at the house party and if it was apparent it was an underage situation, then we'd take the appropriate enforcement action,” Robertson said.
Last weekend, ALE agents busted up a party where they say Wakefield students were drinking after a tip on their own hot line. Chansler hopes the Wakefield tip line will work just as well.
“That's truly our goal...is to save our kids,” she said.
Wakefield's anonymous tip line will be unveiled at Wednesday's PTSA meeting. It's made possible through proceeds from Wakefield's 5K Run last October.
To report any underage drinking at any North Carolina location, concerned citizens can call the ALE hot line at 1-877-ALE-AGENT.