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AMHERST ALCOHOL CRACKDOWN NETTED 42

Amherst police put a real damper on summer parties for a lot of teenagers this past summer.

Police made 42 arrests from May to September during a beefed up effort to reduce underage drinking, according to Chief John J. Moslow.

Many of those arrests were made when police were called to investigate loud noise at private homes and discovered young people having drinking parties when their parents weren't home, Moslow said.

In past years, police would have confiscated the alcohol and notified the youths' parents of what was going on.

But the Police Department -- thanks to some extra funding -- assigned a special detail to concentrate on the underage drinking problem for those months this year. The department also beefed up routine enforcement.

The result: 42 arrests related to underage drinking, mostly at house parties, but also at hotel parties around prom time as well as in bars.

The charges ranged from illegal possession of alcohol and unlawfully dealing with minors to illegal sale of alcohol to minors.

As part of the crackdown, police also had contact with 154 youths who weren't arrested but were often warned about the dangers of underage drinking.

What's more, parents were notified by mail that their underage children were at a party where alcohol was available, said Sally Yageric, parent program coordinator with the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

Underage drinking became a major concern this summer after a 15-year-old Amherst girl was pulled from the bottom of the family's backyard pool unconscious after drinking hard liquor with two friends.

Just days earlier, an 18-year-old West Seneca teen ran off a cliff and fell 60 feet onto the rocky shore of Cazenovia Creek when police showed up in response to complaints of a loud party with a keg of beer and some 50 youths.

Both teenagers were expected to recover.

But even before those accidents, Amherst police identified underage drinking as a problem and coordinated with the
Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse to crack down on the problem.

The council spent $7,600 on a public relations campaign targeting underage drinking. It also helped the Police Department create a $7,200 fund to finance a special police detail to target the problem. The department received $3,600 in county funds from two Erie County lawmakers. The town chipped in another $1,800 and the Police Department used another $1,800 of its own funds.

The money was used to create a police detail that was working on an overtime basis from May 23 to Sept. 1. The detail went out 10 evenings during the summer, with four officers assigned in each case.

Meanwhile, the special detail increased awareness in the Police Department in general of underage drinking, Moslow said. Some 31 arrests involving underage drinking were made by police on regular duty during the summer, he said.

In addition, Moslow said the increased police interest in underage drinking served as a deterrent, since youths throughout the town had become aware of the crackdown.

The chief said he hope to continue cracking down on underage drinking, particularly during the upcoming holidays, and hopes to get more money to fund a special detail again in the future.

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