In wake of party, police to continue efforts to curb teen drinking

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2000

A recent party that drew more than 200 underage drinkers reinforces the &uot;problem&uot; that local law enforcement officers face.

&uot;It’s evident by the number of people at that party there is a problem,&uot; said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff, referring to a July 22 party broken up by Adams County Sheriff’s Deputies.

&uot;I think we’re going to have to continue our efforts in trying to curb teen drinking,&uot; Huff said.

Email newsletter signup

Deputies say Clifton C. Cox, 21, 1307 Martin Luther King Jr. St., charged at least 206 minors $5 each to attend the party at his residence.

Cox pleaded guilty to the charge last week and will be sentenced Monday in Adams&160;County Justice Court, said Justice Court Judge Charles Vess.

Cox could receive up to an $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail for the charge.

Vess said the minors at the party ranged from 14 to 20 years in age and lived in Adams&160;County, Franklin County, Claiborne County and Concordia Parish.

&uot;He put himself in quite a bit of liability with the number of teenagers that were out there,&uot; Vess said.

Vess said he is thinking about what sentence to give Cox and considering jail time or suspending all the time and placing Cox on probation.

&uot;I got to get the point across the danger he put those young men and women in,&uot; Vess said.

When deputies arrived to break up the party, they seized seven kegs of beer and four trash cans filled with alcohol, Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell said.

The deputies broke up the party, wrote down the names of the people who attended and charged Cox with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Ferrell described the party as common for this area and a situation something deputies handle often.

&uot;This is an ongoing problem we’ve been concerned with a long time,&uot; Ferrell said.

Huff said Natchez police have not had to break up a large party in two to three months.

The police usually deal with parties involving about 75 people that take place when someone’s parents are out of town, Huff said.

Police handle these parties much like the sheriff’s department: They make arrests if possible, shut down the party, seize the alcohol and contact the parents, Huff said.

But arresting minors for possession of alcohol can be difficult, especially if the minor is not holding the alcoholic beverage when officers arrive, Huff said.

As for the adults who provide the alcohol to minors – any under the age of 21 in Mississippi – fines and penalties are often not severe.

&uot;That’s how most of our children get alcohol in this community,&uot; Ferrell said, referring to adults contributing to the delinquency of minors. &uot;Unfortunately, it’s a misdemeanor, and all they’ll do is pay a small fine.&uot;

Ferrell said charging admissions fees is also common for these types of parties and describes adults who sell alcohol to minor as similar to &uot;drug-pushers.&uot;

&uot;It’s almost the same as selling drugs,&uot; he said, because these individuals try to sell alcohol for a profit, he added.

The July 22 party occurred during a year in which officials have been making extra efforts to educate young people about the dangers of underage drinking and trying to restrict the availability of alcohol to this age group.

Students in all Natchez high schools watched a movie about teen drinking last school year. Many students also got to try on a pair of fatal-vision goggles that impair judgment similar to alcohol as part of the educational programs.

On July 20, the sheriff’s department temporarily closed the 84 Club on Old Highway 84 after receiving complaints that juveniles were at a business that served alcohol.

Deputies found three people ages 19 and 20 and one under 18 at the business, said sheriff’s department officials. No arrests were made.

And in an undercover operation earlier this year, the Natchez Police Department cited 12 people at area business for selling alcohol to minors, Huff said

Officials such as Huff and Youth Court and County Court Judge John Hudson want to continue these efforts.

&uot;Teen drinking is a problem everywhere, and it’s a problem here,&uot; Hudson said. &uot;That’s not to be making light of it. It is a serious problem.&uot;

Hudson estimated he sees about eight to 10 juveniles, under the age of 18, in his court each month for possession of alcohol. The numbers vary from month to month and include juveniles arrested in both Natchez and Adams County.

&uot;Anybody who says the problem is not here, is looking through (rose-)colored glassed,&uot; Hudson said.

Hudson worries juvenile drinking often leads to traffic accidents. For this reason, he said educational efforts need to continue or the number of juveniles he deals with may be even higher.

&uot;Those 10 or 15 would be 30 or 40, or worse than that you would have kids dying on the road,&uot; Hudson said.

But Hudson said he knows officials will not be able to convince all the young people about the dangers.

&uot;I know they’re going to drink,&uot; he said. &uot;I know know matter what I tell them, they’re going to drink. But that does not mean I stop telling them to stop drinking.&uot; he added.

Hudson said he also appreciates those juveniles who do not drink and prays and &uot;holds (his) breath&uot; that that those who do act responsibly.