Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ACE "surveys" lead to misdemeanor charges

A recent “survey” (from police press release) of Lake County (IL) “establishments” that sell alcohol yielded a 32 out of 85 sell to minor rate. The Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement (got to have a cool acronym) “surveys” took place last month. 32 sellers were arrested and charged with misdemeanor “Unlawful Delivery of Alcoholic Liquor to a Minor”. Granted as it closes: “all defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty”, but I’m pretty sure they got them righteously.

While it certainly was a good effort to impact underage drinking (and the ACE “surveys” should continue), I would recommend efforts elsewhere. It is my guess, and I have seen some numbers to back me up, that buying it themselves constitutes but a small percentage of how underage drinkers get their alcohol. We will have some more local information along these lines soon, as the result of some in-school focus group work.

That is where we need to focus efforts. If they are “stealing it” from home or someone else’s home we need to intervene to stop that. If someone else is buying it for them we need to impact that. These efforts are much tougher than “surveys”, but if indeed those are the larger sources we won’t impact underage drinking without stoppering those sources.

We need to alter the social norms that say it is OK for kids to get and drink alcohol. We need to alter the social norm that says it is OK for kids to drink if “it is a controlled environment (at home, etc)” (kids are learning machines and we always generalize from specific lessons). We need to reinforce the social norms among kids that let them know it is OK not to drink until 21. We need to reinforce the social norms that let you know that you can have fun sober. We need to reinforce the social norm that drinking and driving (or riding with someone who has been drinking and is driving) is not OK, that it can and does have deadly consequences.

Every effort to address this problem and keep kids alive is great, but don’t grasp at the easy “solution” and think you are done. We must do all we can to keep kids alive for as long as we can. I don’t need them on a table in my office, I’d much rather have them for a tour.

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