June 5, 2000
The King County Sheriff's office is once again using party patrols to crack down on underage drinking.
Staff photo by Becky Nixon.
by Becky Nixon, staff reporter
A warning to those seniors who party to celebrate graduation: the Party Patrol will find you.
For the second year, the King County Sheriff's Office has formed multi-agency party patrols to crack down on drinking and driving and underage alcohol consumption.
"Every parent that has a senior in King County was sent a letter warning about the effects of drinking and driving," said King County Sheriff Dave Reichert. "We will be out here tonight and every other night to say to young people that while graduation is an exciting time, please be safe--and no drinking."
Officers from the King County Sheriff's office; the police departments of Woodinville, Carnation, Bellevue, Issaquah, Mercer Island, and Kenmore; the Washington State Patrol; undercover agents; liquor control agents; and Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials were represented.
To begin the evening, officers were updated on procedures and evidence gathering by Adrian McCoy, a representative from the King County prosecutor's office. The enforcement task force officers were then paired into cars, put into east and west groups, tuned to the same radio frequency, and sent to possible gathering places where alcohol had been reported.
When a party was reported in the hills above North Bend, the patrols centralized, coordinated, and went in as the Party Patrol. The young people scattered into the woods, but realizing how dark it was there and that their cars were blocked from leaving by the patrol, began drifting into the processing area.
The partygoers were processed into three groups. Those over 21 and not drinking were allowed to leave. 18-to-20-year-olds who were drinking were cited for underage alcohol consumption and could only be released to non-drinking persons. Those under 18 years old and drinking went on the "Magic Bus" back to the precinct, and had to be picked up by a parent or guardian.
All were cited for trespassing. Tears were shed, excuses were given, but nobody got off. Patrol agents were respectful, even when some of those arrested got "mouthy."
"It's just the alcohol talking. Most of these kids don't realize the consequences of their actions," said one arresting officer.
As the final party participants were processed and photographed with their arresting officer, the cold and the late hour began to wear on the waiting. Sobering thoughts began.
"My parents ar going to be so mad," said one male "bus rider."
"I need to work tomorrow, or I could lose my job," said another.
There were 18 arrests; eight of those were under 18 years old. One female was 14. A keg was confiscated, but a "furnishing adult" was not found. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine.
The Party Patrol loaded up their testing equipment, handcuffs, and processed paperwork, and went on the next party. They hope to not see your child there.
My thanks to King County Sheriff's officer Mark Orendorff and Washington State Trooper Todd Taylor for the opportunity to ride with you, and Detective Sergeant A.P. John and Sergeant Proactive Robert Baxter for an extraordinary experience.