CARIBOU, Maine — Local law enforcement organizations and community partners will be stepping up underage drinking enforcement and education efforts this month in an effort to save more lives on local roadways.
The fourth phase of an “Underage Drinking. Adult Consequences” campaign that was launched in April will run Aug. 10-26, thanks to a federal grant designed to crack down on underage drinking, driving under the influence and those who provide alcohol.
Since April, 124 citations related to underage alcohol use and parties have been issued by enforcement agencies throughout The County.
“This stepped up enforcement [however] is not about arrests or tickets, but about saving lives,” Chief Micheal Gahagan of the Caribou Police Department announced in a statement released Monday.
Aroostook County was one of only four sites in the nation selected to participate in the demonstration project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Community Voices, a countywide organization trying to curb substance abuse among youth, was awarded a $325,000 NHTSA grant to work with 11 law enforcement organizations on a pilot project to get alcohol out of the hands of minors.
“This fourth wave is an ideal time to refocus on the issue of underage drinking,” said Michelle Plourde Chasse, project manager of Community Voices. “During these back to school days we remind parents to talk with young people about the risks of underage alcohol use and for communities and schools to be prepared to build students’ abilities to resist alcohol and make smart choices for themselves.”
It is also a time to remind young people who still have not received the message that it is against the law for them to possess, purchase or consume alcohol, Monday’s press release says. It also is against the law for anyone, regardless of his or her age, to give or sell alcohol to that same group of individuals. Research has shown that strict enforcement coupled with public education reduces alcohol related crashes and use of alcohol by individuals under 21 years old.
Gahagan added that proximity to the Canadian border and the upcoming start of the school year for county universities and colleges “also puts college drinking in the forefront.”
A 2010 research article about the possession of alcohol by individuals under 21 years old noted that one of the methods used to obtain the alcohol is false identification, commonly referred to as a fake ID.
While the exact percentage of fake ID possession is not known in Aroostook County, Maine, researchers in the 2010 article learned that fake ID possession rates grow from 12.5 percent prior to college to 32.2 percent at the end of their second year.
Research also shows that those under 21 years old who regularly use alcohol will consume four or more drinks in one sitting, which is defined as binge drinking by behavioral health and medical officials.
Aroostook County citizens have an important part to play in denying alcohol access to youth by reporting underage drinking parties and those who might provide alcohol illegally to youth, according to the press release. People with anything to report can either call their local police department or 800-924-2261.
Responsible for enforcing the underage drinking laws in Aroostook as a part of the cooperative agreement between NHTSA and the Community Voices Coalition are the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police and local police departments from Fort Kent, Madawaska, Van Buren, Caribou, Washburn, Limestone, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle, Ashland and Houlton.
The Maine Forest Service, Maine Warden Service and U.S. Border Patrol support the initiative. All agencies encourage reports of incidents of underage drinking, parties and furnishing alcohol to minors.