Police out in full force during Homecoming
Local high school seniors appeared to have been on their best behavior over the homecoming weekend, because area police say they only arrested two people for driving drunk.
While public-safety officials handed out 42 tickets and court summonses for alcohol-related offenses, officers also spoke to 55 students who did not drink during the homecoming celebrations, Vail Police Commander Joe Russell said.
“The standard is that if any kid is at a party where there’s underage drinking they can be charged,” Russell said. “We don’t really do that, but we will contact the kids, notify their parents and issue them a summons for this kind of behavior.”
In all, 26 students under the age of 18 received a court summons for possession of alcohol while 12 adults – ages 18 to 20 – were cited for the same offense. One adult was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and having a false ID.
“The reality, though, is most of the kids are doing the right thing,” Russell said. “Out of the 1,300 high-school age kids in the community, 1,200 of them were making the right decision.”
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Homecoming enforcement took place from Vail to Gypsum with patrols in neighborhoods, parking lots and the backcountry, Russell said. Police looked for risky behavior, noise complaints and disorderly conduct, Russell said.
Police received noise complaints in Vail, Edwards and Avon. Police found kids drinking alcohol in parking lots in Edwards and at Battle Mountain High School.
Before the weekend, Russell and fellow officers warned students police would be watching out for any parties in the woods or parking lot gatherings.
“We’re just trying to prevent underage drinking, prevent any accidents – any serious accidents – from occurring,” Russell said.
Evening patrols, funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, were out and about, Russell said, in attempts to ensure the safety of the students celebrating homecoming festivities at Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools.
Vail received the $35,000 grant to help reduce underage drinking in Vail and Eagle County through a series of comprehensive initiatives, Russell said. The grant is a collaborative effort with the police department, the Eagle River Youth Coalition, CARES Group, Inc. and Toucan Research.
The funding also will be used to sponsor a local study of substance abuse patterns by local kids, as well as parent perceptions and consequences of underage drinking, Russell says.
“We have some issues here that we have to work on,” Russell said. “We have some young adults here showing some risky behavior with drinking and driving.”
The extra patrols were activated after a survey of Eagle County students in grades nine through 12 found underage drinking to be above the national and state averages, he said.
“In developing a regional approach, these agencies are helping to reinforce a consistent message that our actions also come with consequences,” said Mark Bullock, principal of Battle Mountain High School, “and that the time to learn these lessons is while we are teen-agers and adults.”
About 405 students were surveyed and the results showed that seniors in Eagle County school are at an “elevated risk” compared to the rest of Eagle County when it comes to drinking and driving.
After the results of the survey were released, the agencies determined the need for a greater law enforcement presence during key events. Weekend celebrations such as homecoming, prom and holidays generate more calls that require more public-safety officials to be on duty, Russell said.
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.