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DA cracking down on underage drinking

LEWIS - Adults who allow teens to drink on their property are being put on notice.

The BEST Partnership, a coalition of local law enforcement and youth organizations, was recently awarded two grants totalling $20,500 from both the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program (EUDL). The funds will help increase efforts to address underage drinking and impaired driving.

"The DA's office is committed to prosecuting these cases aggressively," said District Attorney Julie Garcia, co-chair for the BEST Partnership. With several teen deaths caused by drunk driving in the past few years, Garcia said instances of driving while intoxicated will be dealt with more harshly.

"Anyone with a .10 (blood alcohol content) or above will no longer be considered for a reduction (in charges)," she said.

Some of the grant funds will be used to ramp up enforcement, allowing state, county, and town police officers to put in overtime hours patrolling for underage drinking, especially when it occurs with adult supervision.

"Our enforcement efforts will send a strong message to our community that parents who host will lose the most," said Lake Placid Police Sergeant Carol Hayes.

Adults who allow anyone under 21, other than their own child, to possess or consume alcohol may be charged with unlawful endangerment of a child, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Garcia said she would seek some term of imprisonment in such cases.

"We can no longer sit back and allow our adults to put our children in so much danger," she said.

Among the tools implemented by law enforcement is a 24-hour tip line that allows people to anonymously report cases of underage drinking. State Police Captain John Tibbitts, also co-chair for BEST Partnership, said roughly 80 calls had been received on the tip line, which first went into operation in December.

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