Authorities have long looked for ways to stymie adolescent drinking, and a new “social host” ordinance may eliminate one more place where the under-aged could enjoy alcohol with impunity: their homes.
In a time when most youth get their alcohol from their parents and one in five youth are considered binge drinkers, the proposed ordinance would hold the hosts of a party responsible – most likely through a fine – if they provide alcohol to those under 21 years old. Mayor Marty Blum said a draft ordinance has already been formed by the city attorney’s office, which is receiving feedback from the police department to see how the ordinance might be enforced.
The discussion was part of a Community and Youth Speak Out Monday at Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center. A panel featuring a politician, law enforcement officer, expert and two local students discussed the teen drinking problem in the city, as well as the social host ordinance. Many area jurisdictions – including Carpinteria and the County of Ventura – have passed similar social host ordinances. Chief Dep. Geoff Dean of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said an ordinance in Ventura had reduced the number of parents providing alcohol to minors, but there is still work to be done. Dean told a story about four 15-year-old Santa Barbara girls who traveled down to Thousand Oaks, where college-aged men allegedly got them drunk and sexually assaulted all four of them. The majority of sexual assaults are related to drinking, Dean said.
A survey done by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Teen Coalition found that 91 percent of Santa Barbara teens obtain and consume alcohol at home. Many parents believe it’s safer to let their kids and their friends to drink at home, because they can monitor what is happening. But that isn’t always the case, students said.
And while most everyone in attendance Monday agreed the ordinance wouldn’t end teen drinking, it “would scare a lot of teens from drinking alcohol,” student Jose Aldapa said. Fellow student Christina Gonzalez said the ordinance was “going to put parents in check and make them accountable.”