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Darlington County uses hotline to target underage drinking

One South Carolina county is putting the privacy of its individuals in jeopardy all to try and curb instances of underage drinking. An organization called the Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow Coalition has set up a hotline in Darlington County, which accepts tips from residents on where and when underage drinking might be taking place. While the program aims at cutting down on underage drinking and subsequent DUIs, leaving investigations into such instances in the hands of residents might not be appropriate.

The hotline is called the 'Partybusters' Hotline, and when residents call in, they can expect to speak not with an officer of the law, but to CAST Coalition members. This hotline accepts anonymous tips from residents who suspect underage drinking might be taking place or that an establishment is serving or selling alcohol to minors. Because callers are not obligated to reveal their identities, there is little incentive for them to make sure their information is correct.

Also, this could lead to hostility in neighborhoods where neighbors continually spy on each other all to see if underage drinking is occurring.

The good thing is that CAST Coalition members who receive the calls will not automatically get the police involved. In some cases, they might arrange for safe rides for minors who had been drinking. If the situation is serious, though, the group might enlist the help of police.

According to the CAST Coalition in Darlington County, 65 percent of households in the area allow for underage drinking to take place in the home. Also according to the group, underage drinking and drunk driving have reached epidemic levels, leading the CAST Coalition to adopt a program that could adequately target underage drinking.

Darlington County received an $185,000 grant from the state's Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services for prevention programs such as this. The CAST Coalition also used some of the money to help fund police-manned saturation points and law enforcement training in the area.

Source: WMBFnews.com, "Partybusters fight underage drinking in Pee Dee," Crystal Moyer, Feb. 23, 2012

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