Hancock Co underage drinking task force stepping up patrols

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GREENFIELD, Ind. (June 1, 2016) -- To combat underage drinking at upcoming graduation and summertime parties, law enforcement in Hancock County are stepping up patrols.

Leaders of the underage drinking task force say their approach makes teens think twice before picking up a can of beer.

Hancock County sheriff’s deputies, local police and Hancock County prosecutors are chipping away at underage drinking in the county. At one time, Neighbors Against Substance Abuse executive director Tim Retherford says, underage drinking was a big problem among the county's high school students.

“We don’t want to arrest all of our young people, all of our teenagers, but we do want them all to quit drinking,” Retherford says.

Retherford’s organization pays for the extra officers and deputies needed to increase patrols at critical times of year, like prom and graduation.

“Most of the time when you implement a program or something you don’t see long-term outcomes happen for three to five years,” Retherford says.

Retherford and police believe that hasn’t been the case with the task force.

When NASA first began surveying students in 2013, about 34 percent of seniors had drank alcohol in the past thirty days.

By 2015, that number dropped to only 21 percent of seniors.

“We feel very good about that, but it’s still something where there’s progress to be made,” Hancock County prosecutor Brent Eaton says. “Specifically within the last year, we did have at least one occasion where a man under the age of 21 was involved in a motor vehicle accident which resulted in the death of some other people.”

Timothy Hughes was seventeen when he drank, got behind the wheel and killed Carla Mcloud.

That incident, Retherford says, reminded the community why the prosecutor’s office goes after anyone who provides alcohol to minors to, including parents.

“Our officers are doing a fabulous job of making sure that any time that they can provide who it was that provided it, they can bring charges to them as well,” Retherford says.

Just last night, FOX59 News reported the story of a Greenfield couple arrested for supplying teens with drugs and alcohol for months.

Retherford says their arrests show police, sherrif’s deputies and his organization truly have a zero-tolerance policy.

“I think everybody has realized that we’re wanting this to be a prevention tool, so that hopefully our teenagers think twice before deciding to pick up a drink before the age of 21 and consume alcohol,” Retherford says.

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