Communities work together to keep alcohol “Out of The Hands” of underage youth

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In a statewide effort starting April 1 and ending April 30, law enforcement, prevention specialists, and other community members will coordinate activities aimed at limiting access to alcohol by young people under age 21. The increased enforcement and public education blitz will promote a safe prom season and end to the school year through existing collaborative efforts.

The campaign – called “Out of Their Hands” will emphasize that it is against the law for anyone under 21 to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages. It is also against the law for anyone regardless of age to provide alcohol to individuals under 21 years old. News conferences and media events will begin in conjunction with enforcement throughout South Carolina during April to announce the efforts.

“The spring is when thoughts turn to warmer weather,” said Jennifer Flowers, AET Coordinator, 4th Circuit. “It’s the time of year when high schools hold proms, parents host graduation parties, and students in college as well as high school participate in spring break celebrations throughout our state. Sadly, some of our young people – who are our family members and friends – will not live to see the end of the school year. So the goal of ‘Out of Their Hands’ is zero fatalities during the spring!”

This coordinated statewide effort demonstrates that South Carolina is working together at the local level to make a difference. Our state has 16 Alcohol Enforcement Teams (AETs) within the 16 South Carolina Judicial Circuits. Winston McElveen, Director of Rubicon, Inc. stated, “Our agency is the host agency for the 4th Circuit AET. Our team has partnered with The Alpha Center, Trinity Behavioral Marlboro/Dillon and the law enforcement agencies in Chesterfield, Darlington, Marlboro and Dillon Counties to reduce incidences of underage drinking in our communities.”

Nationally, more than 5,000 young people die each year after becoming victims in motor vehicle crashes, violent crimes, or alcohol poisoning. In 2013, 400 drivers under 21 years of age were involved in DUI traffic crashes. This number includes fatal, injury, and property crashes. The number of individuals under 21 years old, which are under the influence of alcohol and then involved as crime victims or as offenders are staggering. In addition, the cost to society is tremendous. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation estimates that underage drinking costs South Carolina almost $927 million each year (2013$).

In the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted among high school students throughout South Carolina, almost 30% of youth surveyed reported that they drink in the past 30-days. When asked about the usual source of their alcohol, 7.2% reported they purchased the alcohol from retail sources; 15.8% gave someone money to buy it for them; 35.4% had it given to them by someone; 10.5% took the alcohol from stores or family; and 20.6% got it by some other means. Because youth obtain alcoholic beverages from different sources, several strategies will be deployed to help eliminate those opportunities for them to possess or consume alcohol.

In the 4th Circuit, the collaboration will take a comprehensive approach. There will be several strategies such as compliance checks, public safety checkpoints, and presentations to high school, church & civic groups. Collaborations with local coalitions and dissemination of educational materials for all community members.

“One Life Is One Too Many”

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Author: Jana Pye

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