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North Bay Authorities Confront Recent Spike In Binge Drinking Among Teens

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(AP)

(AP)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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PETALUMA (KCBS) – North Bay police have launched an effort to better battle alcohol-fueled, underage house parties. The efforts come at a time when binge drinking among teens in the region reached an all-time high.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports:

Thursday, a conference room at the Petaluma Community Center was transformed into a mock teen party, complete with several dozen minors, hip hop music and fake bottles of beer. Ultimately, North Bay police officers raided the party. It was a drill for the officers from Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties to hone their crowd control and dispersal techniques.

“These house parties are out of control,” warned Gary Najarian, who runs Marin County’s Alcohol, Drug and Tobacco Program. “These are 50, 75, 100 young people, the majority of whom the person who lives there doesn’t actually know.”

Najarian warned that many kids binge drink at these parties. Binge drinking, he said, was defined as having 5 or more drinks within a 2-hour time span.

Marin County was recently ranked number one in the state for binge drinking amongst teens. Sonoma and Napa counties were not far behind.

“We’ve seen in all three of our counties, young people getting sexually assaulted, injured, killed, related to alcohol poisonings or DUIs,” Najarian explained the dangerous mix of teens and alcohol.

He said that in addition to continuing education efforts targeting teens, a new approach in the region was to teach police officers to better handle the parties. Thursday’s mock drill was one such opportunity to train authorities, specifically addressing issues about getting kids safely back home – and how to keep officers safe in the process.

The teens who participated in the drill provided some insight as well.

“There’s no stopping it,” one boy acknowledged about teen drinking habits. “But we could try keeping it safe.”

“It’s ridiculous to try and stop it,” one girl echoed. “I think it’s easier to try and regulate it.”

One thing the teens may not have taken into account was a new Social Host Ordinance in effect in many North Bay communities.

“You can be held liable as an adult, as a parent, even if you’re not present on the scene,” explained Napa County Sheriff’s deputy Jon Thompson. “There are infractions that come with a fine, anywhere from $200 up to $2,500, depending on how many times an officer is coming to your house.”

Thompson described it as a work in progress.

“We’ve learned a great deal of how other agencies are handling this situation. How they’ve adopted the social host ordinance and how they’re using it.”

Ultimately, it was about keeping kids safe.

“We’ve all known somebody that’s been the victim of something that alcohol has led to, either an injury or death,” Thompson conceded. “I think [as a community] we’re seeing the importance of recognizing that.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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