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San Diego County Policy Panel on Youth Access to Alcohol Community Efforts to Combat Underage Drinking

The county of San Diego has created a countywide task force to address underage drinking. Several subcommittees of the task force have been created to examine and address different approaches to combating underage drinking.

  Law Enforcement Task Force - Headed by the Sheriff and Police Chief's Association.

  Policy Subcommittee - To examine possible legislative avenues to address youth access to alcohol, penalties for violations, and sanctioning actions

  Outdoor Advertising - To work in a coordinated manner addressing the proliferation of outdoor advertising promoting the use of Alcohol (Billboards, Window Signs, etc.)

  Social Availability - To address the predominant manner in which youth are obtaining alcohol in every community. An adult purchases alcohol and then provides that alcohol to a minor. Communities Against Substance Abuse coordinates this committee.

The Social Availability Subcommittee has established the following goals and Potential policy issues:

  1. To increase the perception of risk for adults who provide alcohol to youth, adults who allow youth to consume, and youth that drink.
  2. To increase community support for enforcement and adjudication of violations for providing of alcohol to youth through social availability.
  3. To Change community perception that youth drinking is a norm.
  4. To Involve all levels of the community in achieving these goals (Law Enforcement, Faith Community, Schools, Parents, Business, Media, Community Groups, etc.)

  Possible Policy Issues:
  1. Social Availability is a priority for law enforcement and prosecution.
  2. Contract (paperwork) for keg purchase and registration includes a warning label regarding liability of providing alcohol to minors.
  3. Advocate for legislation regarding "constructive possession."

Constructive Possession:
"A person who, although not in actual possession, has the power and the intention at a given time to exercise dominion or control over a thing, either directly or through another person or persons, is then in constructive possession of it. If two or more persons share possession then possession in joint." Law Enforcement does not have to then prove who was in actual possession.

Example: If 6 youth are detained at a beach and alcohol is found present, then all are guilty of constructive possession of alcohol.
  4. Advocate for civil procedure and claims that would allow law enforcement to recoup costs for parties where youth are allowed to drink or provided alcohol.
  5. Advocate for increased penalties for adults who provide to minors.
  6. It is policy that all law enforcement establishes investigations into sources of alcohol. When youth are apprehended or involved in alcohol related incidents.

  Media - Communities Against Substance Abuse conducts media advocacy campaigns for the Policy Panel to access the media in the effort to combat underage drinking.

To assist communities or groups interested in examining strategies to address underage drinking the San Diego County Policy Panel on Youth Access to alcohol has prepared the following checklist to enable communities to identify already existing ordinances or to assess potential future regulations/laws/ordinances.

Proven Strategy

Efforts to control commercial availability
#1: Restrict the location of alcohol outlets
#2: Restrict alcohol sales at community events
#3: Restrict the age of alcohol servers and sellers
#4: Restrict minors' access to bars and nightclubs
#5: Install and use drivers license scanners
#6: Regulate home delivery and Internet/mail order sales
#7: Mandate responsible beverage services programs
#8: Carry out frequent compliance checks
#9: Impose appropriate penalties for commercial violations
Efforts to control social/public availability
#10: Restrict noncommercial furnishing of alcohol to minors
#11: Implement and enforce beer keg registration
#12: Implement "shoulder-tap" enforcement programs
#13: Implement teen party ordinances
#14: Restrict and monitor teen parties at motels and hotels
#15: Establish alcohol restrictions in public locations
#16: Apply appropriate penalties to illegal transactions in noncommercial settings
Efforts to control minors in possession of alcohol
#17: Ban and enforce possession by minors laws
#18: Use "Cops in Shops" programs sparingly
#19: Implement/enforce/ increase "Zero Tolerance" laws
#20: Ban false identification - increase penalties for use of
#21: Apply appropriate penalties to minors in possession

The policy panel strongly encourages all communities to conduct an assessment of your current efforts to control underage drinking utilizing the above checklist.

Efforts by communities to successfully implement strategies to reduce underage drinking face formidable barriers. However, many communities have been successful in achieving victories. In viewing this effort our victories are measured in lives saved and tragedies averted. Some key principles to maximize your efforts include:

PRINCIPLE #1: Set policy and enforcement priorities.

PRINCIPLE #2: Clarify the roles of State and local governments.

PRINCIPLE #3 Foster youth participation and activism.

The potential for reducing underage drinking in communities is present. However, combating underage drinking should be but one part of an overall effort. Locations which have undertaken concurrent efforts associated with the deglamorization of alcohol, providing alcohol free activities, increased messages associated with the risk of alcohol consumption, and included reasonable taxation regulations have achieved the greatest success.

Note: Much of the information presented above was extracted from P.I.R.E. research and documentation supplied to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs.

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