December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Proposed Elyria ordinance targets underage parties

ELYRIA — A proposed ordinance being drafted by Law Director Scott Serazin would fine adults who host underage drinking parties up to $1,000 per party.

“We intend to toughen up our laws,” Serazin said Tuesday at an underage drinking prevention meeting at City Hall. “If it stops one parent from social hosting, it’s worth it, because it brings attention to this.”

People convicted of “knowingly” allowing minors to drink alcohol in their homes or businesses face up to six months’ imprisonment or up to $1,000 in fines or both, according to Ohio law. The law excludes parents or guardians if they are present when the alcohol is consumed.

Serazin said during the two-hour meeting attended by about 25 people that proving adults “knowingly” provided alcohol is difficult. He said some parents host underage alcohol parties believing they have more control over their children that way. Serazin said many parties don’t lead to arrests, injuries or deaths, “but that doesn’t mean there isn’t huge risk.”

Serazin said he hopes to draft the ordinance in time for City Council to vote on it next month to coincide with high school graduation, a traditionally heavy time for underage drinking.

Serazin said it’s expensive for police to have to respond to rowdy underage drinking parties, and a $1,000 fine would make parents more responsible. Rather than having to prove adults “knowingly” provided alcohol, the local ordinance would penalize them for “negligently” doing so.

“If you’re upstairs and all the kids are downstairs and they’re raiding your liquor cabinet, that’s negligence,” Serazin said. “Parents have to be much more vigilant when hosting parties with their children.”

Providing assistance to police for “party patrols” in which officers raid underage drinking parties also was discussed. Police Lt. Jonathan Pelko said officers need probable cause to enter homes and need residents to be their eyes and ears. He said police would respond to anonymous tips.

Pelko said besides enforcement, anti-drinking advocates need to change the culture that says underage drinking is acceptable.

“It’s going to take a lot of people and a pretty big effort, but I think this is a good start,” he said.

Changing the culture also should include not sending a “do as I say, not as I do” message, said Sherman Jones.

Jones, Utility Department superintendent, said he doesn’t drink, but attends political functions where alcohol is served and people drive afterward. Jones said some teenagers see it as hypocritical if their parents drink and tell them not to.

“The reason that our young folks drink is that we adults drink,” he said. “When we point the finger and say to young folks, ‘This is something that you shouldn’t be doing,’ We might have to stop and look inward and say, ‘Hey, this is something that I shouldn’t be doing.’”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

Drinking Prevention

  • The STOP underage drinking task force meets 1 p.m. June 12 to discuss “party patrols” to prevent underage drinking parties. The meeting is at the Alcohol Drug and Addiction Services office at 4950 Oberlin Ave., Lorain. For more information, call (440) 282-9920..