Thursday, March 01, 2007

Operation STAAT doesn't look so good to me

I had to leave a local community meeting early the other day so I missed a discussion that I would have like to have listened to. In addition to several other programs to decrease underage drinking there was to be a discussion of “Operation STAAT”. Based only on an article in the Chicago Tribune, parts of it seems like a bad idea to me.

Operation STAAT (Stop Teen Alcohol Abuse Together) appears to have a few components according to the article. It encourages neighbors who suspect that there is a party at which underage drinking is taking place to report that to a “hot line”, anonymous calls are allowed. That seems reasonable. It also encourages those neighbors to record and report license plates of the vehicles of the attendees. That seems to have a potential for trouble to me, someone could get hurt if caught writing down the numbers. The program calls for community service for underage drinkers caught offending. That seems reasonable as well.

The part I have the most trouble with is that it requests parents who suspect that their teenagers have been drinking to call the police. The police come to their home and administer a “preliminary breath test” and if positive a juvenile officer meets with the teen and community service hours are set up. If the parents “say” that the teen continues to drink the teen can be charged with underage drinking. If the teen stops drinking, no arrest is made (and no record or other consequences for the teen).

While I am a very strong proponent of being your teen’s parent and not their friend/pal, I think this is wrong-headed. It destroys trust and I think it would get in the way of your (the parent’s) ability to get your teen help and/or treatment. If your teen continues to drink they have a problem probably better handled with counseling than punishment. They would not likely trust you about other problems and issues as well.

Parent; don’t get the police to solve your problems better handled in another way. As they say in the article: We can’t arrest ourselves out of the situation”. You can NOT scare a kid sober.

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