Hotline on Teen Drinking Reopened to Foil Parties

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Parents and teachers vented concerns about drinking among teenagers to Fairfax County Officer Joe Moore and Deputy Chief Suzanne Devlin at a community meeting in Mount Vernon last year. "What are you going to do about it?" the police officials were asked.

Moore's answer: a hotline for teenagers, or anyone else, to report drinking parties before they start.

"I thought, honestly, we can say this is what we think we can do," Moore said. He did not expect it to work, "but it does," he said.

The Shut It Down hotline is back for a second season and will be extended through the summer, police said. The number is 703-246-2333. The recorded line, which pages Moore, allows tipsters to remain anonymous, and they have no obligation to show up in court, Moore said.

"The whole goal is to stop something before it starts," he said. "It's not for stuff that's in progress." For parties that have begun, a non-emergency number, 703-691-2131, should be called.

Last year, calls to the hotline resulted in seven parties being stopped, Moore said. Many times, he said, he takes the information, figures out where the party's host attends high school and works with the school to track down parents and prevent the drinking.

The calls are already coming. Last Friday, Moore said, he received two calls and located the parents of a student who was going to hold a birthday party with alcohol.

Devlin said she found that many teenagers didn't want to attend such parties, because they faced peer pressure to drink or were worried about getting in trouble.

And parents are saved the heartache of being accused of contributing to the delinquency of minors, sometimes unknowingly.

"For that, parents have applauded us," Devlin said.

Moore is a motorcycle officer assigned to the traffic unit, whose core goals include eliminating underage drinking and driving.

Statistics show that police have made progress. From 2000 to 2004, although overall arrests for drunken driving rose by 15 percent, arrests for drunken driving among juveniles fell from 42 to 20.

Incidents of possession of alcohol by juveniles dropped by 47 percent over those five years.

Moore said police would prefer to prevent a drinking party but would not hesitate to launch an "enforcement action" if a party involving underage drinking was underway.

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