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December 30, 2009 > Let's Help Our Youth Celebrate Safely This Holiday Season

Let's Help Our Youth Celebrate Safely This Holiday Season

Every year, an estimated 145,000 American teenagers wind up in hospital emergency rooms as a result of consuming too much alcohol. Just this month a 15 year old girl from Gilroy died at a slumber party from an apparent case of alcohol poisoning.

The holiday season is a time for family and celebration, but it can also be a time for reckless and dangerous partying among our youth. Recently, in my city of Hayward, a young person held a party while their parents were out of town. A fight broke out and several young people wound up in the hospital. Luckily nobody lost their life that evening.

But our youth aren't the only ones affected by reckless partying. At the recent party in Hayward, our police department spent 19 hours of police time dealing with the fight and its aftermath. An entire beat of officers was removed from regular service for the evening to handle the situation.

When something like the recent party occurs, our police resources and personnel are stretched thin: thousands of dollars are spent on sending officers to arrest and process the fighting party-goers, and we have significantly less officers available to respond to the calls they should be answering.

In my role as a member of the Hayward City Council, and in my previous role as an aide to Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, I helped implement legislation to address the problem of out of control parties locally.

This law, which now exists in Hayward and Unincorporated Alameda County, is called a Social Host Ordinance. The law states that if underage kids attend a party where a parent, guardian, or adult allows for underage drinking, and police, fire or paramedic services are called to the scene that the adult will be fined up to $1,000 and bear the responsibility for the cost of the police, fire, or paramedic response.

Already in Hayward, the Social Host Ordinance has enabled our police department to recover over $7,500 that was spent on responding to out-of-control parties. During these times when our police department is stretched incredibly thin, recouping even a small amount can make a difference in the city's ability to address violent crime and other serious problems.

I, and my fellow elected officials, don't want to discourage young people from having fun and attending parties. I want the people of Hayward and Alameda County to be aware of this Ordinance, so they can plan safe and responsible parties this holiday season, and so our public safety officers can focus their time on violent crime and keeping our neighborhoods safe.

Kevin Dowling
Hayward City Councilmember

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