Dublin Villager

'Social host' law

Supporters say legislation fulfilling its purpose

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

In the three years Dublin's social host law has been on the books, 11 arrests have been made for violating it.

The law, amended in May 2009, puts more responsibility on parents and gives the city power to prosecute any adult who "negligently" allows underage possession or consumption of alcohol on their property. The law replaced "knowlingly" with "negligently."

According to information from the Dublin Police Department, one adult was arrested in 2010 for violation of the social host law.

One adult arrest was made in 2011 and four have been made so far this year.

Two juveniles were arrested for violation of the social host law in 2010; two others were arrested in 2011 and one so far in 2012, the information stated.

"Those numbers don't surprise me," said Heinz von Eckartsberg, Dublin police chief

"We had speculated before the law was passed that there wouldn't be a lot of arrests," von Eckartsberg said.

"I think it's a good tool. It's a fairly rare occasion when we're able to have all the elements in place to be able to charge someone."

Teens are more often found drinking outside the home, von Eckartsberg said.

"It's a little more rare in the home, that's why there's not many charges for (the) social host (law)," he said.

"Much more often we find kids in possession of alcohol or drinking alcohol when they're out in public or in a car," von Eckartsberg said.

Dublin City Councilman Richard Gerber said the social host law came about after he and Vice Mayor Amy Salay were approached by community groups such as PERC and Dublin A.C.T.

"It happened when I first got on council," Gerber said.

"It came about from interested groups contacting Amy Salay and contacting me.

"Amy and I took it primarily upon ourselves to study what other cities were doing on this issue," Gerber said.

"Underage drinking is not a rampant problem (in Dublin). It's a nationwide problem and a lot of communities were finding better ways to address the problem."

The solution used in Dublin wasn't to create a law that would mean several arrests, but rather a law that would allow public education, Gerber said.

"By amending the law as we did, it was never our intention to put more people in jail or issue more summons," he said.

For the police, the view on the social host law was similar.

"I think it raised awareness that parents do have some liability, parents and any adults around are responsible for underage people," von Eckartsberg said.

"They do have a legal responsibility to make sure they don't drink," von Eckartsberg said.

"It's more than making sure they don't have alcohol in the home or hotel. They need to make sure to the best of their ability that there's no underage drinking going on.

"The whole idea of parents letting high school-aged kids have a party and making sure everybody stays there and doesn't drive, that's not going to cut it," von Eckartsberg said.

"It's still a violation of the law."

Since the law was amended in 2009, the city has been getting the word out through "meet the police" meetings, events at schools and public service announcements with local teen groups.

Gerber is part of the volunteer group that meets four times a year to think of different ways to educate the community.

The group also focuses on different events and times of year such as the holidays and Dublin Irish Festival.

"We had a meeting over the summer before the Irish festival and decided to reach out to volunteer groups to remind them of possible underage drinking," Gerber said.

"We try to take what's going on in the community and take that into account."

Studies from local students suggest that community education has been effective as numbers have declined, Gerber said.

"I think what sets Dublin apart so many times is residents get behind an issue and get involved in the community and get solutions by getting people involved," Gerber said. "We're fortunate to have a community like that."

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