Vail’s zero-tolerance policy to curb underage drinking over Fourth of July is a success

The crowds in Vail and Avon for the Fourth of July holiday were mostly well-behaved, law enforcement officials said

Crowds line the streets of the village during the Vail America Days parade Thursday, July 4, in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

A year after significant hordes of unaccompanied minors caused trouble in Vail on the holiday, the town’s zero-tolerance policy and a mandatory curfew had its intended effect.

Entering the holiday, Lachlan Crawford with the Vail Police Department said officials were unsure if efforts to reach out to Front Range schools and school resource officers would have a noticeable impact.

But apparently, teens and parents got the message.

“There were a few hundred kids in town who were under the age of 21 and 18,” Crawford said. “After engaging in conversation with many of them, they knew that there was a curfew in place, were planning on watching the fireworks and then going home, and almost all of them had gotten the letter that we sent out to Front Range students and parents about what enforcement action we were taking, so the messaging was definitely effective.”

Crawford said officers also spoke to many parents who were in town, informing officers they, too, had seen the letter and decided to come up and supervise their children.

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“During the night, as well as after, we have had many locals contact us and give their positive feedback and support for how the night went, and many commented that despite the crowds this year, they were able to enjoy their night without concern due to how the crowd was behaving and the police presence,” Crawford said. “We did have a few minor juvenile issues that led to arrests, but we were able to deal with those quickly and not let it affect the behavior of the rest of the group.”

All told, Vail officers made 16 total arrests during the July 4 celebration, eight of which were juvenile arrests. Six of the arrests of adults were teens who were 18. Among the 16 arrests, 11 were charged with minor in possession while five others faced assault-related charges.  

Crawford said there were also numerous police contacts throughout both resort villages for open container violations for drinkers who were over 21.

The proactive approach came about after nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors descended on Vail Village in 2023, with some engaging in criminal behavior. One of the major issues was a large group of an estimated 500 to 600 teens who were congregating at Solaris Plaza where authorities saw widespread underage drinking and drug use.

Vail Police Chief Ryan Kenney called the night “a bit of a disaster” during a report to the Vail Town Council.

“They were climbing on top of the light poles, trying to pull the light poles down, jumping into Gore Creek,” he said on July 18, 2023. “… we had to reroute the buses around Solaris because we couldn’t get the kids to move. We didn’t have enough staff for that.”

Crowds were heavy during the Avon Salute to the USA event Wednesday in Avon. The event draws thousands to the park for the July 3 event.
Chris Dillman/Vail Daily

Crowded but tame in Avon

In Avon, Greg Daly said a large crowd of more than 20,000 that descended Nottingham Park for the town’s annual Salute to the USA concert and fireworks show was mostly well-behaved.

He reported six arrests during the holiday weekend — five for charges related to driving under the influence and one for domestic violence charges.

With a crowd of more than 20,000, Daly said the best way to limit unruliness and criminal behavior is by officers being highly visible. Nearly 30 officers from the Colorado Rangers, Colorado State Patrol, Vail Police Department and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office joined Avon officers in patrolling the park, with nearly all of them wearing neon vests.

“This is something we’ve done for 38 years,” Daly said. “We are here to serve them, but that high visibility is also a deterrent for anyone who wants to mess around.”

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Officer reported 514 calls for service between Thursday, July 4, and Sunday, July 7, but declined to provide data on arrests and charges.

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