Students from 11 area high schools are facing charges after Pierce County’s multi-agency Party Intervention Patrol arrested the underage youth at an illegal drinking party last weekend in Puyallup.
Police arrested 27 youth ages 15 to 20 for possessing alcohol. Nearly all were students or recent graduates of Curtis, Wilson, Chief Leschi, Franklin Pierce, Bethel, Mt. Tahoma, Orting, Gig Harbor, Foss, and Spanaway Lake high schools, and Challenger Secondary School. An additional 18-year-old with an outstanding DUI warrant was taken to jail. Several dozen other participants at the party were released because they were 21 or over or had not been drinking.
Police arrived at the 7700 block of 181st Street East in Puyallup Saturday night (Sept. 20) shortly after midnight after an anonymous caller tipped them off to approximately 30 to 40 parked cars lining the street near the party house. Initially the 10-officer team encountered an estimated 60 to 70 people on the property.
After the Party Intervention Patrol team observed several juveniles in the front yard holding alcoholic beverages and others carrying them into the house, police were given permission to enter the beer- and liquor-bottle strewn house which, police said, also had a strong odor of marijuana.
The parents of the 16-year-old hosting the party were in Portland at the time. He requested the police to come into his home to bring order after as many as two dozen kids escaped from the home, broke down his parents’ back fence as they stampeded across a neighbor’s yard and sprinted into a nearby forested area. Just before police entered the home, they heard glass breaking and a fight getting under way inside the house.
These types of out-of-control underage drinking parties typically turn to chaos fast as a result of widespread social networking and texting.
“It’s easy to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter ,” said Bonney Lake Police Sgt. Rob Hoag, who supervised the patrol. “It’s even easier to attract people you would not want your high school son or daughter hanging out with.”
Police removed a set of brass knuckles from one of the youth and discovered several others had prior arrests for minor in possession as well as DUI. “It was not their first rodeo,” Sgt. Hoag added.
“Parents who leave their underage kids and property unsupervised are asking for trouble,” said Chief John Cheesman, chief of the Fircrest Police Department and chair of the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force, which sponsors the program. Such parents, while they may not have expressly given permission for an illegal party to occur, have been shown in some courts to be negligent in cases involving deaths or serious injuries from car crashes, rapes, alcohol poisoning, or the destruction of personal property.
Chief Cheesman said parents can play it safe while out of town by arranging for a relative or adult friend to stay at the home while away or have neighbors watch the house. Parents can also call their local police department and ask them to drive by while they are gone.
“Being unaware and/or not at home is not a good defense for parents in this case,” said Cheesman, the task force chair who has been working with Pierce County Community Connections and area chemical dependency professionals over the past seven years to intervene in the parties and educate both kids and parents on how to make safer choices next time.
Participating in the Party Intervention Patrol funded by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission was the Bonney Lake, Sumner, and Puyallup Police Departments along with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Washington State Patrol, Pierce County Community Connections and area chemical dependency professionals and parent volunteers.
Gloria Mansfield Averill, Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force director