TRUCKEE, Calif. — Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill’s powerful call to stop local youth alcohol consumption has found support among community members.
In a statement last Thursday, McGill highlighted the high use of alcohol and drugs among area youth and the dangers that poses to their safety and others, especially when getting behind the wheel.
The chief pointed specifically to a car wreck — in which no one was hurt — that occurred after an outdoor party last Wednesday night attended by local high school-age students who were drinking alcohol. Authorities also found an unattended bonfire at the party scene, presenting a wildfire danger due to high winds.
Further, other recent parties occurring during graduation season throughout the region have featured area youth smoking marijuana, he said.
“This community has a youth alcohol problem,” McGill said in the statement. “... The Truckee Police Department remains concerned that more preventable tragedies will occur if the Truckee community does not change this culture.”
McGill pointed to statistics from the 2012 Tahoe-Truckee Healthy Kids Survey that reported more than half of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District 11th-grade students have had at least one alcoholic drink within 30 days of taking the survey.
Further, according to the department, 13 traffic collisions in 2012 (10 percent of all collisions) within town limits involved DUI drivers. TPD arrested 106 drivers (21 percent of all arrests) for DUI in 2012.
Former Truckee resident Judi Haughey praised McGill’s message.
“Chief McGill is sending a very strong and very reasonable message to our community,” she said. “I hope that parents and young adults will reflect on his words and start to make a difference in this issue that has been mostly silent but prevalent in our community for far too long.”
In his statement McGill said he’s heard the following past statements from residents regarding youth drinking: “This is what our seniors do,” “I did it too and I survived,” “They camp overnight, so they’re not drinking and driving,” and “I would rather provide the alcohol at my house where I at least know they’re not driving.”
“These statements send conflicting messages to our youth that drinking by 17- and 18-year-old students are ‘OK’ and acceptable to adults,” he said. “Additionally, this approach is ripe for disaster.”
Truckee resident Courtney Wells agreed, saying those statements create a culture that accommodates underage drinking, “which is bad.”
“Some may feel it is the best approach, and I respect a parent’s right to make those decisions within the confines of their home, but those parents do not have the right to make that decision for other children,” McGill said in the statement. “All the efforts of taking keys, locking doors, telling kids they can’t leave does not guarantee kids under the influence will not circumvent those efforts.”
Truckee resident Laurie Scheibner, who teaches at Alder Creek Middle School and is a former Truckee High School teacher, said teens tend to feel invincible.
“There’s a lot of effort by police, community and schools to educate youth about alcohol,” she said, referring to D.A.R.E., Every 15 Minutes presentations, among other efforts. “I don’t know what you would do differently. It’s very frustrating to see how much effort is being put in and kids still taking risks.”
In a follow-up interview, McGill said it’s a problem the police department cannot solve on its own — it takes a community effort.
While he’s pleased to have received positive responses from community members to his statement, he said he hopes it rallies the community to take action.
“(It’s) always meaningless if there’s no follow-through with the community,” McGill said.
As for a solution, McGill said there is no “silver bullet.” Rather, it will probably involve a culture shift and adults reiterating the dangers of alcohol and drug consumption to youth, while modeling their own advice.
“The last thing we want to lose is any more young people,” McGill said.
McGill’s statement was issued through the department’s online Nixle system. To sign up for Nixle alerts, visit http://www.nixle.com and search for “Truckee, CA.”