Underage drinking is illegal and dangerous. Now police say it’s growing out of control in one Maryland county.
Kelly McPherson explains police are trying to send a message to parents.
Underage drinking is becoming a bigger problem and a higher priority in Harford County.
“Our 10th and 12th graders are binge drinking at a higher rate than the state average. And binge drinking five or more drinks at the same time,” said Joseph Ryan, Harford County Department of Drug Control Policy.
Law enforcement is struggling to educate parents about the dangers of providing booze and drugs to their kids under 21 years old.
“In the late 70s, the legal drinking age was 18 years old,” Ryan said. ” And those teenagers of the late 70s are the parents of our teenagers today, but the world has changed an awful lot in the last 30 years.”
The latest incident happened the day after Thanksgiving on Pleasantville Road in Fallston, Md. The police report says that when deputies arrived the father came out to speak to them, but the mother took 10 minutes to answer the door—protesting the entire time. Inside they found 100 kids.
Deputies say they saw Marcy Sherry “assisting kids inside with cleaning up beer cans and liquor bottles into bags and placing them in closets and under the kitchen sink.”
A week earlier a parent in Joppa was busted for having underage kids drinking and smoking pot in his home.
Penalties for the parents vary. In the Joppa case, the dad faces a $500 fine. In the Fallston, each parent faces up to 5 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
“Deputies have discretion when they come to the scene to be able to look at the situation on hand—parents were not cooperative with that situation,” said Monica Worrell, Harford County’s Sheriff’s Department. “We had to call in several deputies and officers to handle the situation that was by no means under control.”
Harford county officials link this abuse to creating drug addicts.
“When I say most, probably 95 out of 100, go back to ‘I started drinking alcohol when I was in high school, that’s why I’m a coke addict. That’s why I’m a heroine addict today. I wish I never would have picked up that first beer,’ “ Ryan said.
Underage drinking is not new, but in Harford County, law enforcement says it has grown to a dangerous point. In the last two weeks, there have been two cases of underage drinking–one where the parents were drinking with their child and 100 other teens.
The county recently received a state grant to pay for officer training on breaking up and interviewing people at these parties as well as other initiatives to cut down on underage drinking.
The Fallston parents have been released on bond and will be back in court next week.