“We need to be even more diligent now because it’s a very risky time both for adults and kids,” Vining said. “Our concern is that people have so much on their plates right now; the community is not healed, and we want the prevention message to still get out there. We know that post-Hurricane Katrina, alcohol use and marijuana use went up significantly. What happens is in times of distress, people self-medicate.”
The Project 21 compliance checks are among a number of initiatives aimed at curbing underage drinking and alcohol sales to minors. The coalition and the Police Department also have a program called “Guest Doorman,” where plain-clothes police officers work side-by-side with bouncers who check I.D. And with 57 percent of young people reporting that they drink in private homes, police conduct “party patrols” that are dedicated to reducing the amount of underage drinking that happens at house and block parties.
The coalition and Police Department also offer other preventive measures, such as responsible beverage service training for Long Beach merchants who have licenses to sell alcohol both on and off-premises. Merchants who take advantage of the training are eligible for a reduction in their insurance rates.
Vining said that from January 2012 to September 2012, the most current statistics, the Long Beach Fire Department received 36 alcohol-related emergency medical calls for service involving those under 21-years-of-age.
Since 2001, more than 1,500 minors have received summonses for possession of alcohol in Long Beach, and, according to the coalition, there were more than 40 emergency-room admissions for alcohol poisoning in 2010 involving people under 21 at the medical center.
“When police do these types of operations ... we want to raise everyone’s awareness,” Vining said. “The majority of kids who drink tell us that they do their drinking at private homes, either theirs or a friend’s house, so the way they’re getting their alcohol is through friends who also purchase it at these off premises locations.”