CPD Gets More Money to Fight Underage Drinking

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COLUMBIA - The Youth Community Coalition, also known as YC2, donated $14,000 dollars to the Columbia Police Department to supplement substance abuse programs.

The YC2 received the money from Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Ryan Worley, coordinator for the coalition, said that in our community alcohol is the most commonly abused drug. When YC2 received they money, the organization wanted to target the emerging need for enforcement of underage drinking laws.

Worley said, "as a whole trend we are seeing some good reductions in underage drinking but we do have periodic increases."

Worley said the increases in the trend are heavily influenced by two things - attitudes about how harmful alcohol is and the easy access to alcohol among minors. 

Worley also said over the last few years state funding for the effort has decreased and the State Division for Alcohol and Tobacco Control has faced budget cuts. Enforcement efforts have in turn fallen on local communities. 

Worley said, "It really has to be a local response to this. This is our neighborhood, this is our community, these are our streets, these are our kids, and so we wanna take an active interest in that."

Heather Harlan is a prevention specialist for Phoenix Programs in Columbia and works with children who struggle with addiction. 

Harlan said, "It's very important for the community to understand that 90 percent of all addictions begin during adolescence. So that's our best opportunity to prevent addictions."

Harlan also stressed the importance of the environment. She said, "So if we just wanna treat young people in terms of prevention or even offering treatment we haven't successfully treated the environment in which that might occur which is what we need to do."

Harlan shares Worley's feeling that easy access to alcohol is a big problem. She said that the responsibility has to fall on the adults supplying or buying to young people, as well as the retailers in our community selling to young people.

"You know blaming young people for experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is like blaming a fish for swimming in a polluted stream. We've created the environment that is we make it look as though alcohol is the be all end all for your entertainment for the weekend, what do we expect young people to do?," said Harlan. 

The Columbia Police Department said it is hoping to use the money given to them from the YC2 to help prevent underage drinking through programs such as compliance checks. A compliance check is when the Columbia Police Department hires a minor between the ages of 18 and 20 years old to go into a business and attempt to purchase alcohol. If the server doesn't ask for an ID then the server is issued a summons. 

Sergeant Candy Cornman works on the downtown unit of the Columbia Police Department. She said the most common way they see minors getting alcohol is by using a fake ID.

Sergeant Cornman said, "Generally when we make an arrest for a minor in a drinking establishment, like a bar, I would say eight out of 10 times we find that that minor is in possession of false identification."

With the funds YC2 gave Columbia police, the department said it wants to conduct compliance checks. Compliance checks are part of an overtime fund. The officers come in on their days off or they come in early or stay late to conduct the checks. They also hope purchase equipment they would use during the compliance checks such as monitor devices, or video to capture the evidence they need. 

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