Underage drinking parties have police chief concerned

Westborough – Underage drinking parties are on the rise at an alarming rate in town and Police Chief Alan Gordon is fearful that it may take a tragedy before some parents understand the seriousness of the problem.

Gordon cited three instances of underage drinking parties between late November 2009 and Jan. 8 to which officer s were called by neighbors.

The chief said he has received reports of other underage drinking parties in town over that span as well, but he found out about those after the fact because they did not require police intervention. “It’s alarming. This is a serious problem,” Gordon said. “At some point, someone is going to get into a serious accident and the repercussions are going to be huge. There’s a recipe for it happening right here, with all these parties. I’m afraid it’s going to take one serious accident and one parent getting sued and losing everything to make people start to wake up and realize this can happen.”

Roger Anderson, who oversees the Health & Wellness Program at Westborough High School, believes a number of factors play a role in why this has become a more prevalent problem.

“The lack of a tragedy in recent years is certainly a factor, but the social acceptance by parents of underage drinking is a piece of it, too,” Anderson said. “But the biggest role in underage drinking, as far as how big and out of control these parties have gotten, is technology.

“That’s the biggest diff erence in the last 25 years,” Anderson said. “A student goes over to a small get-together at a classmate’s house, realizes there is alcohol present or no adult supervision – or both – and in two clicks of his thumb he has invited 30 people over. The ability of kids to communicate with each other is easier and more widespread than ever before. One student can communicate very rapidly very privately with a large number of classmates.”

Gordon said a New Year’s Eve party on Fair View Road had more than 100 students in attendance when his officers arrived on the scene. He said when his officer s arrived , the partygoers ran from the house into the adjoining woods

“Thousands of dollars of damage was done to that house,” Gordon said.

On Jan. 8, an intoxicated 17-year-old female found on Cross Street led police to an underage drinking part on Ruggles Street, where Gordon said more underage students were found intoxicated. Gordon said he will be working with Anderson and John Badenhausen of Westborough Youth and Family Services on a seminar dealing with underage drinking that will be held during the spring. Gordon said his cable television show for the month of February will also deal with the rash of underage drinking parties.

“There has to be a community eff ort on this, if there is to be change,” Anderson said. “It can’t just be the people who see the kids from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. It can’t be just the police, or just the elected officials. Al l stakeholder s need to be involved, especially the parents. Maybe parents need to look at the child’s cell phone history, or texting history or Facebook account to get a better idea of what they’re doing when they’re not at home.”

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=6399

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