Pierce County’s Party Intervention Patrol citied 14 underage drinkers, ages 17-20, after a tip led the multi-agency team to a bonfire deep in the woods near the La Paloma Firs neighborhood of Graham.
Beginning at 11 PM on June 14, officers hiked into the area to observe the party and arrest participating youth for minor-in-possession and trespassing.
As some of the drinkers attempted to leave the party in their 4x4 vehicles, two were subsequently arrested by the Washington State Patrol’s DUI-dedicated Target Zero team. Both drivers’ blood alcohol level tested at twice the legal limit; one had a handgun which was taken by the arresting troopers.
Among the arrested minors taken to the team’s processing center in east Pierce County was a 17-year-old who was given medical aid after he had gotten into a fight at the party. Another minor told officers that several previous illegal parties had taken place at the scene in spite of “no trespassing” signs being posted. The Party Intervention Patrol team is following up with the property owner to ensure that no future illegal parties take place at the site.
The team also responded to a citizen complaint from a homeowner in Lake Tapps after he contacted his legislative representative regarding his concern about the underage youths who allegedly conduct unsupervised weekend alcohol and pot parties in his neighborhood.
While the Party Intervention Patrol team found no juvenile parties taking place around Lake Tapps on June 7, they did respond the same night to a noise complaint in the Gem Heights neighborhood of South Hill where neighbors reported a large group of teenagers drinking at a residence. As patrol units approached the home, parents were seen picking up their children, indicating they may have been tipped off that police were zeroing in on the home.
At the party, two juveniles were found outside the residence. One had passed out and was assessed for alcohol poisoning, then taken to the team’s processing center where he was later arrested. That individual received an intervention from a chemical dependency professional before being picked up by his father. The other juvenile – whose brother had been arrested at an illegal graduation party by the team last year – was arrested after he jumped over a fence and attempted to run from police.
Officers spoke with the Gem Heights homeowner about what might have happened had the team arrived to the home undetected earlier. They explained that underage drinking isn’t a “gray area” of the law: it’s illegal to provide alcohol to or allow your property to be used for drinking by anyone under age 21.
Parents who think being at home while underage youth drink alcohol are placing both the youth and their family’s financial future in jeopardy. Most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t extend liability coverage for illegal alcohol-related injuries and deaths from things like drowning, falls and poisoning according to Bob Thompson, a sergeant with the Puyallup Police Department and supervisor of the June 7 Party Intervention Patrol team.
Gloria Mansfield Averill, Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force