The waning weeks of the academic year brings forth many things, including high school prom and graduation.
Along with the school year coming to an end and warmer weather emerging – somewhat this calendar year – celebratory parties will most certainly spring up all over town.
There is no law outlawing a good, wholesome celebration, but when alcohol or drugs are added into the equation, that is when law enforcement officials take notice. As it is widely known, the possession of alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, as is purchasing alcohol for anyone under the age of 21. In Lee’s Summit, a municipal ordinance aimed at curbing what is known as an open house party for minors is also illegal.
Since 2004, the Lee’s Summit Police Department and Lee’s Summit Cares have worked with other community partners to combat minor in possession and open house party violations. The organization started tracking the number of arrests for MIP in 2004 and open house party violations in 2007. In 2008 the LSPD counted a high of 419 arrests for MIP. The low was 83 in 2004 and 215 arrests were recorded in 2012 following 260 MIP arrest the year before.
In 2008 open house party citations reached a high of 35, and decreased each year thereafter until last year when 13 citations were issued compared to eight in 2011.
Lee’s Summit Cares receive drug-free community grants that allow the organization to help provide funding to pay police for party patrols, which, on an average, are conducted 14 times per year.
“It’s important for the youth to know that there is enforcement in our community,” said Roby Little, director of Lee’s Summit Cares. “The enforcement means that we don’t accept underage drinking in Lee’s Summit. Especially around prom and graduation season. There will be a party patrol during each (local high school’s) prom night; there are party patrols on the last day of school. They are very much aware of the time and events in the community where kids are most likely to use alcohol.”
Just last weekend, 47-year-old Tracy Binkley of the 2700 block of S.W. Gray Lane, was cited for hosting an open house party for minors. Up to nine juveniles were also cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol after a parent of a party-goer reported to police that she witnessed between 20 to 30 juveniles intoxicated and drinking in the basement of Binkley’s home.
“It’s not OK for adults to host parties and serve alcohol,” Little said in general terms. “First of all, it’s illegal. Secondly, people that start drinking at the age of 15 are five times more likely to become alcoholics. Alcohol is addictive. The whole thing about age 21, a teenager’s brain – a child’s brain – is not fully developed until after 21. You don’t want to affect your brain’s development. It’s like a parent is making a decision for all of those kids at their house that it’s OK to drink. Maybe that’s not OK with the parents of the kids at the house. They’re making a decision that everybody on the block that is at their house maybe can drink and that’s a huge assumption on one person‘s part to make that assumption.”