Underage drinking spills out into town
Underage kids throwing parties in the woods outside of town is nothing new. But as an incident last Friday night at a party near Boca Reservoir illustrates, there is always danger involved when kids, cars, alcohol and fire mix.
The Boca gathering, at which 19-year-old Christa Williams of Truckee sustained second-degree burns after falling into an open fire, was quickly broken up by police when they received the 911 call about Williams’ injuries.
However, according to Tahoe Truckee High School senior Michelle Bergman, 17, many of the students in attendance made their way to another party going on that night off of U.S. Forest Service Road 06 behind Ponderosa Palisades in Placer County.
Bergman, who drove the injured Williams to Boca dam where she was transferred to an ambulance, blamed the lack of options Truckee kids have for nighttime activities in the area.
“I guess there’s just nothing to do around Truckee, so we all think ‘Let’s go out to Boca and have a party,'” she said.
That sentiment was echoed by Monika Williams, the burned teen’s mother.
“Most kids hang out in the woods because there is nothing else for them to do up here. We build all these houses up here but we don’t construct any youth centers.”
Law enforcement in the region are acutely aware of the dangers associated with large groups of teenagers gathering in the woods to drink and hangout. The Boca party attracted an estimated 60 people, according to police.
While many teenagers are responsible enough to designate a sober driver, police said that when they arrive to break up a party people often jump in their own or other people’s vehicles and flee – regardless of whether the driver may have been drinking.
According to Bergman, that was the case last Friday night at the Boca party.
“At this party, everyone who drove away was completely smashed,” she said.
Other dangers include the risk of fires getting out of control and spreading to other parts of the forest. That’s a huge concern for local fire managers who cite lightning and illegal campfires as the top two causes of wildfires in the area.
Warm weather means more parties
Nevada and Placer County Sheriff deputies and Truckee police officers are preparing for a busy season responding to teenagers partying in remote locations around town, said Lee Osborn of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
“Kids going out and partying in the woods is a perennial problem,” Osborn said. “The party spots tend to be passed down from one class to the next.”
As police monitor the Boca area, kids will likely go some place else to party. That was the case after Williams was burned at Friday’s gathering. Many of the students headed to the party off Forest Service Road 06 on Saturday night. That party was broken up by Placer County Sheriff Deputies with the assistance of CHP and Truckee police units.
A press release issued by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office stated that approximately 300 local kids attended Saturday’s party. Deputies confiscated two beer kegs and other alcoholic beverages. They also issued several alcohol and marijuana related citations.
“This is one example of the consequences of underage drinking and the lack of proper supervision,” read the statement. “The Lake Tahoe and Truckee law enforcement agencies will continue to work to curtail underage drinking, and parents need to know we will prosecute any adult that contributes to or facilitates one of these parties.”
By all accounts, getting alcohol is not much of a problem for Truckee youth. Bergman cited shoulder tapping (asking someone over 21 to buy alcohol for a minor), stealing and purchasing alcohol with fake IDs as common methods minors use to obtain alcohol.
“If you go to Safeway, there’s always someone there who’ll buy for you,” she said.
That thought has law enforcement personnel and parents worried, especially as young people head further out into the woods to evade law enforcement.
“I think it’s a significant issue in Truckee, but it’s an issue that needs to be addressed with law enforcement and parents” Truckee Police Chief Scott Berry said. “I think law enforcement is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Nevada and Placer County Sheriffs and the CHP to address the problem. We realize that most [of the parties] are not in Truckee’s jurisdiction, but it is Truckee kids, and we’ll do everything we can to keep them safe.”
Berry said that one of the biggest obstacles they face is overcoming the idea that partying in the woods is something that all kids do.
“It’s not a right of passage just because you’re a senior in high school to be able to go out and drink in the woods. That right of passage is when you’re 21,” Berry said.
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