Nevada doubles funds to combat underage drinking | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada doubles funds to combat underage drinking

Teya Vitu

The message that drinking alcohol is not cool for youths will become louder and louder with the doubling of Nevada’s funding to combat underage drinking.

Law enforcement agencies across the state and anti-alcohol student groups called “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” can tap into an additional $398,000 in federal funding to slow sales of alcohol to youths.

“Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” groups “have a goal to glamorize and normalize the decision to not drink,” said Kathy Bartosz, a state juvenile justice grant analyst. “What we are trying to do is initiate a movement similar to the tobacco movement 30 years ago.”

Nevada early this month became one of 10 states to receive a $398,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program to enforce underage drinking laws.

The new grant adds to the annual $360,000 grant that the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services’s Juvenile Justice Commission has used since January 1999 to launch a statewide campaign against underage drinking.

The Justice Department grant will target Clark County, allowing all of the additional grant money to be used in the remaining 16 counties in Nevada.

Law enforcement agencies outside Clark County will get $162,000 to expand the retail store sting operations already in place. Along with sending youths into stores to try and buy alcohol, some officers will pose as clerks to nab youths bringing alcohol to the cash register, Bartosz said.

“A lot of this will pay for officers’ additional time to do this,” she said.

Stings since October in Clark, Washoe, White Pine and Douglas counties resulted in a compliance rate of 49 percent for stores not to sell alcohol to minors, Bartosz said.

Even with the low compliance rate, retailers are responsive to efforts to cut down alcohol sales to people younger than 21 years old, Bartosz said.

Sting operations will spread to more counties with the new funding. The Carson City Sheriff’s Department will start its own retail sting program next month after shelving the program several years ago because of overtime costs, Chief Deputy Scott Burau said.

Bartosz said that enforcement efforts will go beyond sting operations, which will spread to other counties in coming months.

“We will look at more creative ways,” Bartosz said. “There will be a thorough investigation of the manufacture of fake IDs on computers.”

Students will also play a critical role in convincing fellow students not to drink alcohol. A year ago “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” groups formed across the state to establish youth-adult partnerships with the mission to reduce underage drinking.

The new grant funding will train the “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” youths how to use data to create a message. A recent statewide school survey show sthat about half of youths have made the decision to abstain from alcohol, another 25 percent drink a little at parties and the remaining 25 percent are problem drinkers, Bartosz said.

“They will learn how to use the media to get the message across that underage drinking is not cool,” she said.

Carson City’s “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” group is using $8,000 to stage an Icebox dance program for junior high youths to instill them with the message that not drinking is acceptable. The first dance was on St. Patrick’s Day at the Carson City Community Center with more dances possibly coming on a monthly basis, Bartosz said.