Acting on a tip last weekend, police went to an East Pierce County home early Sunday and arrested a couple for allowing their residence to be used for an after-graduation underage drinking party for their daughter.
Upon obtaining a search warrant to search the property, officers found a keg in the garage that was strewn with beer cans, wine and hard liquor bottles. Police also discovered an unconscious 18-year-old male inside a tent next to a beer cooler in the back yard and immediately summoned Central Pierce Fire and Rescue. Once on site, first responders also evaluated the homeowner’s daughter for alcohol poisoning when officers found her on her bed unresponsive amid pools of vomit.
Thirty-two underage drinkers, primarily from Puyallup and Emerald Ridge high schools, were arrested for minor in possession along with an additional four youths in a vehicle parked outside the party. The driver of the car had a large amount of marijuana in his vehicle, which party-goers told police had been sold to some of the students earlier in the evening. Officers working the emphasis also arrested a motorcyclist who tested three times over the legal limit to drive.
After years of Party Intervention Patrols in Pierce County, “you’d think parents would re-think their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’ when it comes to alcohol use, especially during prom and graduation season,” said Bob Thompson, sergeant with the Puyallup Police Department and law enforcement coordinator for the multi-agency Party Intervention Patrol last weekend.
Parent volunteers who met with the parents of the arrested youth when they came to pick up their children emphasized that parents can keep their kids safe by keeping close tabs on their nighttime activities and asking for the details of their alcohol-free plans, especially when the plans involve events on family property. The parents arrested Saturday night told police their daughter said the party would be alcohol-free.
Parents also have the option of reporting to police the addresses of houses where suspected juvenile parties take place throughout the year, with or without adults present. “Silence is never good when parents don’t report the parties in their own neighborhoods. Our goal is to get kids home safe and to give them another day to make a better decision,” said Liz Yotty, a parent volunteer with Party Intervention Patrol.
The Party Intervention Patrol uses police, chemical dependency professionals and parent volunteers, along with funding from the Washington Impaired Driving Council, to curb underage binging. It has reduced the number of impaired teen driving deaths in Pierce County by more than 50 percent since the project, coordinated by the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force, began in 2007.
“That computes to 12 more youth living to see their 21st birthday than before we started this project,” said John Cheesman, Chief of the Fircrest Police Department and Chairman of the task force.