ANDERSON, Ind. —
Students see low risk
Locally, the towns of Lapel and Pendleton have expressed interest in the ordinance, and Cook said other communities in Indiana have passed similar legislation sponsored by the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking.
According to the HTFMC report, 60 percent of respondents reported using alcohol within the previous year. The same percentage of students think there is little to no risk in having one or two drinks on occasion, while 65 percent of students think there is significant risk in binge drinking weekly.
Madison County Juvenile Court Judge George Pancol said reasons vary for youths who use alcohol. Pancol deals with juveniles who face underage drinking charges, which often are coupled with other charges, he said.
“There’s usually more than just alcohol,” Pancol said. “A lot of them that come in, they’re testing positive for marijuana. It’s just kind of a combination of things.
“A lot of it is to just escape some of the realities. We have some teenagers in some pretty tough situations. If your friends are all drinking and you’re not, it kind of tends to make you the outcast. Every year that goes by, it just seems like it’s more accepted. They just all kind of buy into it.”
Anderson Police Department public information officer Mitch Carroll provided The Herald Bulletin with APD statistics that show 123 alcohol-related juvenile arrests and 894 alcohol-related adult arrests in 2009.
Illegal possession, consumption or transportation by a person under 21 is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a prison term of up to 60 days and a fine of up $500. Public intoxication is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to $5,000.
Often, however, Pancol said he treats underage drinking cases in other ways.
“If a child comes in under a delinquency petition, probably the least restrictive is to put them on probation,” Pancol said. “We check to see if they’re going to school. We try to keep up on not only alcohol but all their behavior.”
More serious substance-abuse problems will result in juveniles being placed in treatment programs, either in-patient or outpatient, Pancol said.
“Getting a handle on that early as a teenager is very important,” he said. “Teenage drinking leads to alcoholism later in life.
“Unfortunately we do see a lot of repeat offenders, and we keep stepping up the sanctions.”