Mock party raid displays police response to underage drinking

By Nicole Mott
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

Police raided an apartment early Friday evening to take part in a simulated party bust, intended to show how to break up an underage drinking party safely and effectively while using the minimum amount of resources possible.

Thirty underage students simulated party behaviors police often encounter such as belligerence, fleeing from police and being passed out in an apartment at University House at Starr Pass, 2525 W. Anklam Road.

The event, which is collaborated by local law enforcement officials as part of a national conference on underage drinking, was organized to address how communities and law enforcement respond to and enforce underage drinking laws.

One way the department enforces underage drinking laws is through controlled dispersal techniques, said Officer Dennis Widener from the Tucson Police Department.

Controlled dispersal techniques are ways in which police break up gatherings.

"The first step to a party break-up is containment," Widener said. "A perimeter is set up around the complex and around the apartment itself. An entry team contains the people inside the party, and partiers are split up by age groups."

The party-goers are then photographed, processed and cited, Widener said.

"We want to send a message right up front that underage drinking is not acceptable," said Lt. Mike Pryor of the Tucson Police Department. "One way we do that is we get search warrants. That allows my cops to treat an underage drinking party as what it actually is a crime scene."

The bust was part of the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center's sixth National Leadership Conference, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Justice Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention Office.

Conference attendees were community leaders and law enforcement officials from all over the country who take an active role to prevent underage drinking. Nine hundred people were registered for the conference.

Pryor is part of the underage drinking task force, which is meant to enforce underage drinking laws. One way to do that is to seek and break up underage drinking parties, he said.

Empirical data and service calls commonly determine which parties the taskforce breaks up, but sometimes plain-clothed officers find parties and call them in.

Pryor said some UA students disagree with the hardline approach local law enforcement has regarding underage drinking, but it is his job to enforce the laws and being a student makes no difference regarding age.

"The fact that you're in college does not change the way your body responds to alcohol. Your body doesn't care that you're in college," Pryor said. "Underage drinking is a community threat considering all the sexual assaults, traffic collisions and violent activity that results from it."