Hancock County task force cracks down on underage drinking

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. - May is a time for prom and graduation parties -- which all too often mean underage drinking -- but one central Indiana community is taking a stand to stop it.

It's a time to celebrate, but if your end-of-school celebration includes underage drinking, some uninvited guests with badges may crash your party.

"We're not very popular with some of the teenagers in our community because they know that we're out there. We've had several parties that we know have now been canceled because the task force found out about it," Executive Director of Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse Tim Retherford said.

The Underage Drinking Task Force is made up of all eight law enforcement agencies in Hancock County, plus Indiana State and Excise Police.

In March, the task force started "party patrols," where officers were actively out looking for underage drinking parties. And they've been busy.

"In the last three weeks we've had five parties that have been busted," Retherford said. "Over the weekend, one of the parties, there were actually two 911 calls made to dispatch reporting the underage drinking party, and I believe that's a direct result of everybody knowing that the Underage Drinking Task Force is here."

"It's obviously very important. We don't want to lose any juveniles for any reason, but especially to alcohol when we can do something about it," said Michael Shepherd with the Hancock County Sheriff's Office.

Banners warning that the task force is watching hang all over town, including inside schools and bowling alleys.

Striking down the problem isn't about busting kids, it's about saving lives.

"Our concern is that we don't have some of the tragedies that other communities around our state have seen as a result of underage drinking," Retherford said.

Since the program kicked off at the end of June, more than 75 kids have been arrested by the task force for underage drinking. That means more than 75 kids have ended up either in the juvenile center or in jail.

The overtime for officers on the task force is funded through a grant paid for by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

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