Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Social Host Law Earns National Award

Ordinance gets credit for drop in underage drinking

By Nao Braverman
At a recent award ceremony in Orlando, Fla., the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Underage Drinking Training and Enforcement Center acknowledged that, with Ojai as a role model, Ventura County has really toughened up on youths and adults who allow underage drinking in their homes.
Ojai’s Chief of Police Bruce Norris and Council Member Rae Hanstad accompanied 30 other Ventura County community leaders to the Orlando reception ceremony, Saturday, to accept an award for the county’s recent efforts to curb underage drinking.
Presented by the JJDUDTEC, the award was based on countywide enactment of the Social Host Ordinance, first adopted by Ojai in 2005 and enacted early in 2006.
Spearheaded by the local Substance Abuse Free Environment Coalition, the local ordinance gives law enforcement officers the authority to cite both juveniles and adult hosts of parties where minors are drinking. The the offense is civil not, criminal, but violators are charged an irrefutable $1,000 fine, regardless of their age.
Though some of the violators and their parents disagreed with the imposition of such a high fine, the new ordinance has already been enforced eight times in Ojai. While it is too early to reference official statistics, Norris told council members that local police officers had noted a recent decrease in local parties where underage drinking occurs.
That was the S.A.F.E Coalition’s goal, when they discovered that surveys showed binge drinking among high school students and youngsters who reported riding with a driver under the influence in Ventura County were higher than the state average.
But, most importantly, they also learned that an overwhelming number of youth were using alcohol compared to other drugs and gained access to it at homes or private parties, according to Ruth Cooper, program coordinator for the S.A.F.E Coalition. The latter gave community leaders the incentive to push forward an ordinance that targeted home parties with underage drinkers throughout the city.
Ojai’s ordinance was thus introduced on Jan. 24. Following Ojai’s lead, other Ventura County cities, one by one have enacted their own version of the Social Host Ordinance, charging violators between $500 and $2,500 depending on the local jurisdiction. So far Fillmore has issued one citation, Camarillo 12, Thousand Oaks nine, and Moorpark three.
“I’m very proud that Ojai’s was the leader in enforcing a countywide ordinance that helps deter underage drinking countywide,” said Hanstad who is also a S.A.F.E Coalition member.
Cooper said that after receiving media attention for the success of Ojai and Ventura County ordinances, the local coalition had been contacted by numerous representatives from other cities throughout the country looking to formulate a similar ordinance of their own.
“We are very pleased that our city can work as a role model to assist other communities in passing similar ordinances,” she said.
Part of the effectiveness of the ordinance, has come from all the media coverage which has prompted parents to warn their teens.
“It can’t work as a deterrent if parents and their children don’t know about it,” said Cooper.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think getting an award in Orlando, Florida for an invasive, unconstitutional law is anything to crow about, and who is paying to send Hanstad to Disney World?