Washington County Sheriff’s Office obtains underage drinking grant

Posted Aug. 28, 2010, at 1:12 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is one of 15 state law enforcement agencies awarded Maine Office of Substance Abuse grants to target underage drinking.

The two-year, $15,000 grant will help to coordinate efforts across Washington County to enforce existing underage drinking laws.

Alcohol abuse remains one of the critical problems facing families, communities and law enforcement departments in Maine, according to Sheriff Donnie Smith.

“Alcohol is the drug of choice among both youth and adults in Maine and is a factor in all of the leading causes of death for Maine citizens under 30 years old,” Smith said in a press release.

For the past two years, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has been working with Washington County: One Community to reduce underage and high-risk drinking.

“Law enforcement plays a critical role in reducing underage drinking in our county,” Smith said. “This is a community problem, and it takes an entire community working together to solve it. Research shows that alcohol kills more children than all illegal drugs combined. Many adolescents drink alcohol that was purchased by their parents, and many do so without their parents’ knowledge.”

The funding will help implement underage drinking party patrols, collaboration among agencies for special call-out teams to handle large parties, third-party transaction surveillance and compliance checks.

“As a society, we understand the message about not drinking and driving, but we still need to look at the bigger picture of underage and high-risk drinking,” Eleody Libby, executive director of Washington County: One Community, said in the release. “The portion of the brain that controls decision making and reasoning is not fully developed until around the age of 25. Thus, a teen’s judgment is altered and this can lead to serious consequences.”

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office recently increased emphasis on drunken driving, highway safety and party patrols, as well as alcohol education in schools.

“The Sheriff’s Office partnership with Washington County: One Community has given us the opportunity to increase our party patrols, publicize our anonymous tip line and educate the public,” Smith said. “It is through enforcement and collaboration that we hope to reduce underage access and educate the community.”

To report incidents of underage drinking in Washington County, call the tip line at 255-8303 or 800-432-7303. All calls are confidential.

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