Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories




– July 31, 2002



of Problem










The OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative supports cooperation between community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned citizens to change local ordinances and enforcement practices.


  START– Taking Underage Drinking Seriously in Vermont

Vermont?s START program targets underage drinking parties across the State, and cooperation among law enforcement agencies has made all the difference. 

As in many States, parties are a major venue for underage drinking in Vermont. In this largely rural state, parties are often held in remote locations, making enforcement difficult, and in consequence Vermont has seen its share of alcohol-related deaths among youth.

On many occasions, a lack of available officers prevented an effective response to large parties of underage drinkers. That has changed, thanks to the Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Teams (START) in every county in Vermont. START coalitions are comprised of traditional law enforcement (Sheriff?s Department, Police, Liquor Control, et cetera), non-traditional enforcement (game wardens, motor vehicle inspectors), State?s attorneys, prevention organizations, youth, and others. The strength of the program is in the shared ownership of the problem, and that decision making is community-based. Each START is responsible for allocating resources to enforcement, prevention, education, and intervention/ treatment programs, with a focus on environmental change. 

Enforcement alone will not change the alcohol environment in Vermont, but it is nonetheless an important part of the START program. The core of the START?s enforcement effort is proactive and reactive

party patrols and dispersals?in fact, the enforcement community developed these operations and techniques even before EUDL grant money became available. The teams conduct proactive patrols on certain nights?prom, homecoming, the ?black? Friday after Thanksgiving?in addition to reactive patrols in response to tips. When additional officers are needed, they are called in from neighboring jurisdictions.

START?s initial results were unexpected; the number of arrests overwhelmed the courts, clogging the judicial system. This led to the decriminalization of the first count of possession for minors, a move that allowed authorities to screen for alcohol abuse, consider treatment or diversion, and cut paperwork down to a half-page. Instead of draining court resources, youth are fined and risk loss of their driver?s licenses?by far their most precious privilege. The program has led to other changes as well; the public spotlight on underage drinking has led to increased penalties for adults who provide alcohol to minors and increased awareness of the consequences of hosting youth drinking.

All told, START has been a great success for Vermont. After a few high-profile cases, parents and schools take underage drinking seriously, and youth know that the enforcement is there. According to John D? Esposito, an investigator with Department of Liquor Control and a trainer/member for Rutland County?s START, ?Kids are still having parties, but many of them are not drinking.?


more information,

contact Dominic Cloud at Vermont League of Cities and Towns, 802-229-9111 or Tom Perras at Vermont Department of Health, 802-651-1550


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