WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 28, 2010, 03:49 PM

Moorhead Police take a unique approach to stopping underage drinking

Moorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Moorhead police are taking a unique, proactive approach to crash parties, all an effort to stop underage drinking. They are going undercover starting this weekend.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

Just days into the start of another school year, you can't miss seeing thousands of fresh faces.

“There are some students that are just having fun.”

But instead of hitting the books, like Kayla Duffney is doing during the day, some will be hitting the bottle at night.

“Now that I live off campus in my own apartment, I never usually go to house parties because I know most get busted anyway.”

The 19-year old MSUM sophomore admits to drinking illegally. It happens in dorms, but more so near campus, in homes, or apartments.

“I've never been to one that got busted, but I can imagine that would be horrible.”

For the 5th year, Moorhead police are cracking down on underage drinking. Two officers on overtime are patrolling party places, select weekends.

“We don't specifically go out looking for parties to target. We're not what is coined as party patrol. We're simply out to deal with complaints made by our citizens.”

The officers will be undercover, walking, on bike, even in unmarked police cars to catch law breakers in the act. About 300 cited just last year for underage drinking.

“It allows us to address a lot of the public aspects. It's very easy from a distance to a see a patrol car coming or a uniformed officer coming, but when we're on foot, bikes, it gives us an opportunity to observe and hear violations you wouldn't necessarily hear from a vehicle.”

While some students call it a trick, others, like 22-year old Benjamin Knier, aren't bothered by the beefed up enforcement; going so far as to call it logical.

“They're trying to keep it at a reasonable level so that it doesn't get too chaotic.”

But will the effort actually work? Just last year, about 300 minors were cited.

“I think just as many parties will get busted as they did last year.”

A federal grant is paying for the overtime, which can cost about 500 dollars a night. A trip to court for a drinking citation can cost a lot of money, many students don't have.

A minor in consumption ticket in Clay County is 185 dollars and community service. In Moorhead, it can be one thousand dollars and 90 days in jail. Underage drivers lose their license for 30 days, face a 700 dollar fine, and 90 days in jail. Adults who give alcohol to minors can be held criminally and civilly responsible.