By Tim Leeds
The planning committee for the 2000 Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking campaign made decisions including radio public service announcements, the flyer it will distribute and setting up an anonymous tip line in a meeting Wednesday.
The campaign, funded through HELP's Drug-Free Communities Grant, is intended to prevent underage drinking in a five-year program through a variety of activities.
Krista Young, program coordinator at HELP, said KOJM/KPQX has offered to run public service announcements to promote the campaign. The committee decided to try to run announcements by a variety of community figures, such as County Attorney Dave Rice, Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon, Justice Carol Chagnon, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Bob Peake and Havre Fire Chief Craig Ellingson.
The committee heard additional information about a company in Texas which can take anonymous calls about underage drinking and refer them to appropriate law enforcement agencies. It was decided that the expense of using this company was probably too high, and other options should be explored.
Rice suggested promoting the idea of using current systems. He said anonymous calls tipping law enforcement officials about illegal activity happen frequently, and people need to be made aware of the possibility and assured their anonymity will be guaranteed if they wish. He said law enforcement officials receive a substantial amount of information in this fashion already.
Rice said if information is received in this fashion, it affects the way officers can investigate the situation. He said once they receive a tip, all they can do is check out the area, but if a party or kegger is going on, that would probably be enough to give probable cause for further investigation. He said citizen tips is an important part of law enforcement.
The committee decided this was probably the most effective way to act at this time, and would take action to promote the use of existing systems to report underage drinking.
The committee also heard final revisions to the flyer that will be used to present facts about underage drinking. About the section on underage drivers, Rice said that minors who are simply in a vehicle where others have been drinking probably would not be charged with possession, but would be charged if any alcohol containers were found.
The committee decided to print the fact sheets up in time to include them with the last flyers to be distributed to students in the public school system, and discussed other distribution options.
The committee also discussed the effect of having minor-in-possession (MIP) tickets could have on insurance for people with the tickets. The tickets go onto the individual's permanent driving record, and are not affected by the minor turning 18. Rice said insurance companies might have different policies about considering the person with a ticket at risk, and it could have some effect on insurance for the individual.
Wayne Klemann, customer service representative with Erickson-Baldwin Insurance Associates in Havre, said MIPs can affect insurance premiums by placing an individual into a high risk market instead of a preferred market, causing higher premiums. He said many companies will refuse to insure people who have two or more MIPs on their record.
Young relayed a request to Solomon from Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette that he try to gain support from the state law enforcement associations for the resolution they have drafted to allow county-wide curfews be enacted. The resolution will be presented to the next legislature by the Montana Association of Counties.
Under current state law, only incorporated townships can enact curfews, which limits peace officers ability to stop minors in small towns and rural areas for probable cause. Under the MACo resolution, counties would have the option to enact county-wide curfews, increasing peace officers' ability to enforce underage drinking laws.