Teenage parties worry Basaltines
Basalt cops say they have received enough complaints from parents about kids partying this fall that they have to take action.But instead of unilaterally deciding to aggressively bust up parties and ticket minors for underage drinking – or, as Basalt Police Officer Penny Paxton put it, “being hard-asses” – the cops want direction from the community.The police department has scheduled a community meeting Monday, Nov. 29, at Town Hall starting at 7 p.m. Police are hoping that parents, liquor store owners, Town Council members and especially students will attend. The meeting is open to the public.”We want to have our students spearhead this meeting instead of having all of us adults ganging up on them saying ‘Bad, bad, bad,'” said Paxton.Basalt isn’t facing a problem any different than most other small towns in America – past, present and probably future. And there is no evidence that underage partying is any worse in Basalt than in Aspen, Carbondale or Glenwood Springs.However, some parents have complained to Mayor Leroy Duroux and Police Chief Keith Ikeda about parties where underage kids were drinking and possibly smoking pot, Paxton said.In some cases there are rumors that parents provided alcohol in homes or allowed the partying to take place.She has been talking to students at Basalt High School to try to gauge the severity of the problem. The reaction has run the gamut from kids who said there isn’t a problem with partying to those who said there is.Jessica Barnes, a Basalt High senior and student body president, said she believes there is a widespread problem with alcohol abuse among Basalt students. She said the problem isn’t acknowledged by students who drink. But students like her, who don’t drink, view partying as a problem.She said she appreciates that Basalt has a police department that comes to the students to look for solutions after receiving complaints. “In other places they’ll just do what they want,” she said.Nevertheless, the idea of putting the issue under a microscope has made some students uncomfortable.”I think there’s a negative reaction about it,” Barnes said. “Kids [who] are being looked at don’t want to change.”Barnes said she believes the community discussion would be most valuable by educating kids about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and drunken driving.”We’re going to come up with something that will help students when they get in that situation because we’re not going to stop drinking,” she said.Paxton acknowledged that it’s not realistic to expect the problem can be solved by cops writing more tickets to minors in possession of alcohol. That’s why she’s making the big push to get kids involved in the discussions.”I said is it just up to the police department to fix this problem? Is that what we as a community want – more tickets?” Paxton said.She said the police department’s position is that underage drinking is illegal and should be avoided, regardless of whether that is realistic. But the police also want to help youth avoid alcohol poisoning deaths that have plagued Colorado college campuses this year and avoid fatal, alcohol-related car crashes that regularly occur.Holding the town meeting has the potential of raising some community goals that the police department wouldn’t have come up with on its own, Paxton said. And it expands the responsibility for dealing with the problem.”We just want to get our community involved,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘OK, you guys are bringing up a problem. Help us out.'”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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