Party Patrol: Task force cracks down on underage drinking - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Party Patrol: Task force cracks down on underage drinking

GRANT COUNTY, WISCONSIN (KWWL) -- In Grant County, Wisconsin, authorities are tackling underage drinking with an aggressive task force. The Safe Grant County Coalition secured a federal grant for $50,000 a year for four years to cover education to enforcement. They just finished up the first year.

KWWL rode along with the task force on patrol this weekend and to see how part of the program operates. It was homecoming weekend at UW - Platteville.

"We'll end up with a lot of people that will probably cross paths with the police," Platteville Police Chief Doug McKinley said before we set out. "Hopefully they won't have been engaging in underage drinking, but if they are, that's something we'll deal with."

On Friday night, there were extra county deputies out, aiding Platteville police and working the entire county.  The task force operates throughout the county, but will sometimes set up to help a specific community.

"I came on at 8:00, and then I'll be out until approximately 2:00," Deputy Mark Schwarz said.

They work extra hours (on a volunteer basis), specifically targeting underage drinking. The overtime is paid for by the federal grant.

"We always tried to delegate additional overtime to it, but in this financial climate, it just wouldn't have happened the way it has," McKinley said.

"The numbers are pretty sad. The drinking rates are very high as far as binge drinking, underage drinking. That really prompted them to look at other funding to support those efforts to reduce it," Stop Underage Drinking Now Coordinator Tonia Wagner said.

Wagner says the grant covers all aspects of supporting the enforcement of underage drinking laws. That includes community events, education, neighborhood watch, helping with school alcohol curriculums, and funding extra patrols for enforcement.

"We just kind of drive around. A lot of times we get complaints actually called into the police department or the sheriff's department and then we go investigate them from there," Schwarz said.

After some stops, we headed to what's reported to be a large party outside town. A sergeant had already arrested one person who left the party for operating while intoxicated (OWI).

It turned out there were more than 100 people; quite a few of them were underage. Deputies rounded up minors to issue tickets for underage drinking.

Dealing with the one party took four officers about an hour and a half; resources and time the county may not have had before the grant.

"Tonight, it gave us a couple extra officers to help out with making contact at the party and also follow up with the investigation of where the alcohol came from and who supplied that alcohol," Sergeant Chad Breuer said.

As for the night, the task force says it was typical. They're always out looking, and that means somebody's going to get caught.

"Hopefully it gets out, a message gets out, that 21 means 21," Breuer said.

The Grant County Sheriff's Department says it will be contacting the host of the party and issuing tickets. Those minors who got tickets at the party have the opportunity to attend a program called "Fresh Start", a class that can get the citation waived.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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