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Straight Up on Social Host Ordinances

June 28, 2017 4:38 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Our very own Katherine Kasmir was featured in the Camarillo Acorn this month! Katherine’s founding of Straight Up and Reality Parties for Parents has sparked (as it intends to) much discussion around youth drinking culture and the parental role in prevention. Check out this rundown!

Social host ordinance aims to deter teens from drinking

Unpopular at first, law has helped curb house parties
By Ian Bradley

It’s summertime, and with teens out of school, the Camarillo Police Department reminds homeowners they face fines if police have to break up house parties attended by underage drinkers.

Since the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office started enforcing the social host ordinance in 2006, deputies have written 236 citations countywide, 91 of them in Camarillo.

The law allows police to enter a home where they believe underage drinking is going on and fine the homeowner for serving alcohol to those under 21. A first-time violation may result in a $500 fine, and repeat violations rise to as much as $2,500.

Sgt. John Franchi with the Camarillo Police Department said that when deputies are called to a house party, they’re not necessarily seeking to fine the homeowner. It’s more about safety.

“Sometimes we’ll get to a house and find people in need of medical assistance who have to be taken away in an ambulance,” Franchi said. “We’re just trying to prevent deaths. We’ll keep kids there and call their parents. We’re not looking for drugs, just to stop the activity from happening.” He said people shouldn’t let fear of a fine keep them from calling the police if a party gets out of control.

In both 2015 and 2016, deputies wrote six citations in Camarillo. Though that number is up from one citation issued in 2014, it marks a general downward trend since 2009, when 16 citations were handed out.

The ordinance was initially unpopular—some feared it gave police the right to invade their privacy— but it has gradually gained acceptance as more parents learned about underage drinking through organizations such as Straight Up Ventura County.

Straight Up is a youth development project funded by the Ventura County Beh avioral Health Department. It stages dramatizations of teen parties for parents.

Katherine Kasmir, founder and executive director of Straight Up, said the staged house parties— called Reality Parties—are put on to give parents a firsthand look at what happens behind closed doors at a home where teens are drinking booze, taking drugs and having sex.

“We saw that parents needed to get a clue, but how?” Kasmir said. “So we put together a script based on the information we were gathering and recruited teenage volunteers to act it out.”

Parents are taken on a 30-minute tour of a party featuring teens discussing how they sneak out and where they get alcohol.

The experience includes staged fights and drinking games to show how high-schoolers can be pressured into drinking too much and how parties can spin out of control. It also sheds light on drinking and sexual assault as “unconscious” girls are carried into dark bedrooms where candlelit performers tell stories about rapes at house parties or the pressure they feel to have sex.

The tour ends with a visit from the police, who give a citation to a parent who emerges from a back room and explains that they took the teens’ car keys to make sure they were safe.

“Parents say, ‘Kids are going to drink either way, at least at home they’ll be OK,’” Kasmir said, “but adults will just as often stay out of the way, so there’s really no one watching.”

Link: Camarillo Acorn