Using military tactics, elite squads patrol the streets of many U.S. towns on the lookout for…What? Terrorists? Meth labs? X-Men mutants?
No. They’re hunting parties where minors might be drinking. Like some dystopian futuristic flick, in communities as quintessentially American as Lawrence, Kansas, local police so dissatisfied with the slow but steady decline of teen drinking, have changed their tactics from responding to complaints of underage drinking parties to hunting them down.
In Vista California and in Hingham Massachusetts, units called “party cars” patrol neighborhoods looking for high school graduation or post-prom parties. “Saturation patrols” looking specifically to catch drivers under 21 with any alcohol in their system are the order of the day in Sherwood, Arkansas.
In Lawrence, Kansas, a task force trained to identify potential fake ID situations, earns overtime pay patrolling the streets to catch caterers who didn’t notify them in advance about scheduled events. Yes, the law states all catering firms hired by Lawrence residents must notify the Lawrence chief of police and the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control in advance with the “location, name of the group sponsoring the event, and the exact date and time the caterer will be serving.” If not, the task force may show up to check your guests’ ID.
Un-American? Or one more step across the divide between “persuasion and compulsion” so memorably described in Last Call, Daniel Okrent’s book about Prohibition. As parents and citizens, it’s our job to keep vigil, constantly balancing protecting our children with protecting our rights, and theirs. And our caterers’.