Minor consumption tickets: a reality for underage drinkers

Between March 13, 2011, and April 13, 2011, eight reports of loud parties and three reports of loud music were made in the Hillside area. Police officers issue underage consumption and social host citations to help prevent alcohol-related tragedies. Photo Credit: David Cowardin Even though over a year and a half has passed, Kirsten, a sophomore at UMD whose last name is being withheld, still remembers the exact date of her first party bust. It was Sept. 18, 2009. A Saturday.

After being at the party for about a half an hour, 60 people had arrived.

“A bunch of people were playing beer pong and it seemed like more and more people were showing up,” she recalls.

The noise level was gradually increasing. Then the most dreaded phrase for a minor was shouted throughout the house.

“Cops! Cops are here!”  she said she heard.

At that point, Kristen, who hadn’t been drinking, was “freaking out.”

“There’s no way this was happening to me. I’m a good kid,” she was thinking.

The tenants instructed all of the underage drinkers to go down to the basement. About 25 people were packed against the walls and into the crevices under a stairway.

“You could just hear everyone breathing heavy because they were so nervous,” she said.

After hiding in the basement for 15 minutes, the basement door opened and the glow of a flashlight pointed down the stairway.

“The cop yelled ‘Is anyone down here?’” she said.

No one responded.

“If anyone is down here you better come up right now to make this all easier,” she recalls the police officer saying.

Kristen headed upstairs as directed. She and the rest of the underage guests were let off with a warning.

As she left the party, she saw the three tenants of the house sitting on the couch talking to the police officers. One of the young men held his face in his hands while crying.

Loud college parties are a common complaint call from residents of Duluth, Minn. According to an incident report released by the City of Duluth Police Department, between Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010, and Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010, the department responded to more than 25 party calls. Within those four days, 10 social host citations and 68 underage consumption citations were issued.

More recently, between March 13, 2011, and April 13, 2011, eight reports of loud parties and three reports of loud music were made in the Hillside area, according to crimemapping.com.

UMD Junior, Tyler (upon request, Tyler’s last name has been omitted) is one of many college students who has been at loud parties when Duluth officers have arrived.

Recently, Tyler was at a house party with about 70 other people when the cops arrived. According to Tyler, the police officers who broke up this party began breathalyzing people immediately and handed out underage consumption tickets to everyone under the age of 21. Tyler avoided receiving a ticket by hiding in a closet.

“I was in a clothes basket with a bunch of clothes piled on top of me so they couldn’t see me,” Tyler said.

Tyler remained in the closet, covered by the clothes for two to three hours.

“I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t,” Tyler said.

Although, some students manage to avoid tickets by hiding from police officers, or get off with a warning, others aren’t that lucky.

Allison Baker, a senior at UMD, received a social host ticket last May for holding a party at her home. Baker and her roommates were taking advantage of the nice weather by having a barbecue and playing beer pong in their garage with a few friends.

“It was nothing out of control by any means,” Baker said.

At the peak of the party, twelve people occupied Baker’s home.

“We had a little iPod thing playing in our garage,” Baker said. “We didn’t think it was very loud but apparently our neighbor or someone did.”

Multiple squad cars arrived at Baker’s home and issued all the tenants of the house social host citations. Baker and her roommates were “shocked at the arrival of the officers” and “scared of what was going to happen.”

Baker said that she tried to explain to the officers that they had never had any previous problems with the law at their home. The cops, however, did not provide the girls with any leeway.

“Two kids that weren’t of age tried to run and I think that’s why they were a little more strict with us,” Baker said.

Although Baker acknowledges that underage drinking is illegal, she and her roommates did not provide any alcohol to the few minors present at their social gathering. Based on the small number of people present at her home and their absence of previous crime, Baker felt that the social host citation was unjustified.

“Why can’t you just tell us to turn down our music?” Baker thought. “Why are you busting a party of like 10 people when there’s probably more important things going on?”

University of Minnesota Duluth Police Department Officer, Chris Shovein, said there are a lot of factors that play into whether or not the officers on duty ticket the renters.

“A lot of it has to do with history,” Shovein said. “Have we been to this house before? Have we ticketed this person before?”

In addition to history, the officers on duty also take into consideration the size of the party and the attitude and behaviors displayed by the partiers.

According to Shovein, social host citations were put in effect to discourage people from having parties.

“If things are smaller and more intimate, they have less of a chance of getting out of control,” Shovein said.

Shovein said that often times young drinkers don’t know the dangers of consuming alcohol. Shovein remembers a case in which a 19 year old walked through Chester Park while heavily intoxicated, passed out and drowned in the creek. Police officers issue underage consumption and social host citations to help prevent tragedies like this.

Do you think there is a problem with alcohol in Duluth, especially among college students? What do you think needs to be done? Let us know in the comments.

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