Adults, don’t let minors drink

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Local law enforcement officials now have yet another tool in combating underage drinking.

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners passed a countywide social host ordinance at the regular board meeting Tuesday morning.

The county ordinance seeks to eliminate the venue of illegal alcohol consumption. It gives law enforcement officials within the county the capability of holding grown-ups criminally responsible for knowingly allowing three or more underage people to drink alcohol in their residences. The ordinance applies in all rural areas of Freeborn County, including the smaller communities.

Christopher Shoff

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The Albert Lea Police Department already had that authority, as the City Council passed a social host ordinance in December 2008. Now the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office can use the county measure.

“Albert Lea has seen the push locally, and I think eventually the state will finally step in and enact a social host ordinance statewide,” said District 4 Commissioner Christopher Shoff.

Lt. J.D. Carlson of the Albert Lea Police Department and Alice Englin, director of the Freeborn County Partners in Prevention, began meeting with Shoff back in June. He was immediately supportive, and invited them to participate in commissioners’ workshops to assist in creating a draft for the county, very similar to that of Albert Lea.

Carlson said he has tracked minor consumption in Albert Lea since the city enacted its ordinance in 2008. He said after one year, minor consumption went down in the city but it went up countywide, because there was no ordinance in effect outside Albert Lea city limits.

Carlson is confident that when he does the one-year study of the county numbers, he will see a decrease across the county, as well.

“All of our neighbors have incorporated a social host ordinance, either locally or as a county, including Mower County,” said Carlson. “The perception was that it was safe to drink in Freeborn County. Hopefully by making this ordinance, we’re taking away their venue for being able to do that.”

As of Nov. 15, 57 cities and 10 counties have enacted social host ordinances in Minnesota.

The social host ordinance passed Tuesday on a unanimous vote.