The Suffolk County Police Department has launched a new telephone hotline, dubbed “Cancel the Keg,” aimed at stopping underage drinking parties before they begin.
The new initiative, which comes as the season for prom and graduation celebrations gets underway, will permit residents who get wind of an underage drinking party to call the hotline number to alert police of potential parties beforehand.
In response, Commissioner Tim Sini said the department will send an officer to do “custom notification.”
Officers will knock on the door of the home where the party is planned and speak to an adult about the county’s social host law, which makes adults legally responsible for knowingly allowing illegal underage drinking.
“With the season coming for proms and graduation parties, it’s very important for adults to know we will be enforcing the law,” Sini said.
In the last five years, county police have issued 50 summonses for violations of the social host law, including a record 13 last year.
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) called the hotline “a fantastic idea. People I represent have been crying out for more police engagement to keep some of these keg parties from happening.”
Cilmi and Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) also are sponsoring a measure to strengthen the social host law to make a first time violation a misdemeanor. A public hearing is scheduled for June 1.
Currently, the law permits police only to charge a violation for a first offense, punishable with a $500 fine, and a misdemeanor on a second offense, subject to a $1,000 fine.
With a violation, police must witness the underage drinking personally. By charging a misdemeanor, the officer can rely on witness testimony to make the charge.
Sini said that the situation has created enforcement “problems in the past,” but had no statistics on how often it has thwarted prosecutions.
“With the summer approaching fast, it’s necessary to update the law in the books to deter underage drinking parties and if this effort saves one life, we’ve accomplished the goal,” said Martinez.
Melissa Smith, a victim services specialist with the state office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), applauded efforts to toughen enforcement. “It gives the community the opportunity to hold one another accountable,” she said.
The hotline numbers are: 1st precinct, 631-854-8147; 2nd, 854-8254; 3rd, 854-8326; 4th, 854-8434; 5th, 854-8527; 6th, 854-8632 and 852-8726 in the 7th.