“But it was just a beer party…”

The perception that underage alcohol parties are just innocent gatherings of youth, an acceptable and appropriate right of passage, is debunked by the many unfortunate and sometimes lethal consequences that accompany these illegal parties.

The many significant consequences, or “fall out,” from these gatherings emphasize the necessity for providing social opportunities for youth while eliminating the presence of alcohol, drugs and other illegal behaviors.

“Fall out” usually begins on the day after the alcohol party and starts as parents return to their home to discover the remnants of the illegal get-together. Often the first indication of problems is litter strewn along the street and in the yard, twisted beer cans and plastic cups partially filled with beer or other alcoholic beverages.

Upon entry, the gathering from the previous evening is evident by the smell, the odor of beer mixed with a cleaning solvent scent. The cleaning solvent was used in a failed attempt to clean up and conceal any evidence.

Damages noted immediately include broken furniture and damaged fixtures, doors and drywall, all of which sustained deliberate damage due to abuse. The flooring and carpet are damaged by spilled beverages, and the wood floor in the kitchen is already beginning to swell due to the placement of the half-keg, spillage from the taper, and melting bags of ice. Multiple brown burn spots dot the floor throughout the kitchen and family room and are accompanied by cigarette butts and cigars that were crushed out on the honey oak flooring, which is now discolored and stained. The flooring cannot be cleaned and must be replaced, although the smell will still linger.

As sickening as it seems, it is about to get worse. It is discovered that visitors from the previous evening trespassed into the master bedroom, taking advantage of the hot tub, and ransacking the contents of every drawer. Although disturbed by the mess, the discovery of the missing jewelry box, formerly on the dresser creates panic. It had contained irreplaceable jewelry including family heirlooms, brought to this country by grandparents. After a frantic search of the room, under piles of clothes dumped out during the mayhem the night before, it was not located…lost, missing, stolen, gone forever.

The jewelry box was taken and had already been sold by a thief, a party participant, who was unknown to the host and who heard about the party through others, his usual method of operation. He frequents such parties blending in with other male teens, seeking not to socialize but to burglarize. He quickly sells his stolen goods for a small fraction of their value. To avoid detection, the purchaser of the stolen jewelry quickly removes the stones for individual sale, and their settings are crushed with a hammer and sold as junk gold. It is gone forever.

The vacation cash hidden in the nightstand is also gone, a year’s worth of saving for a special trip with the kids. Lost is the chance for family travel and warm memories.

Returning to the den, additional disturbances are noted to the desk drawers where papers were obviously rummaged through. The checkbook is missing, as are several charge cards, bank statements, an ID and other negotiable items. A call to the bank confirms suspicions that the items have already been used several hundred miles away and that they have already changed hands, making identification of the offender or his accomplice more difficult.

As disturbing as the loss of the property is, they must also face the deliberate damage done to the home amounting to thousands of dollars. Damage inflicted by partygoers, using force fueled by the flow of beer and alcoholic punch.

The neighbors are arriving upset and angry at the beer cans and empty cardboard beer containers that litter their yards. Two homes sustained considerable damage to their lawns from a “lawn job” done by one party participant as he was leaving; the driver continued across the street striking six mailboxes. Demands for an explanation and restitution for damages further contributes to the sickening feeling.

The police are summoned to generate a report of the incident and to conduct an investigation into the missing items. This easily preventable incident requires the time and resources of the police department and deprives others of their service.

The police speak with the teenaged party host who is unable to furnish information on the offender, saying he was unfamiliar with many of those in attendance and that his memory is clouded by his own alcohol consumption. At the completion of the interaction he receives a court summons for his role as party host and for possessing and consuming alcohol. His older cousin, the purchaser of the half-keg of beer, will share the same court date. Each will retain an attorney and appear in court to explain their actions to a judge.

The party giver, the youngest of the children at 17, is frightened and recognizes his loss of control as the party quickly escalated beyond expectations. As it did, he felt helpless and intimidated by several older intoxicated participants. Fearful of getting into trouble if he summoned a neighbor or others for assistance, he did neither and is crushed emotionally.

Devastated by the problems that he is responsible for, and recognizing the consequences of the cost, a court summons, and his parents’ lost trust, he feebly apologizes, “but it was just a beer party…”

– A Police Officer

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