Wausau leaders crack down on people who host underage parties
WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Wausau city leaders said they're cracking down on people who host underage drinking parties. Police used to have to prove an adult provided alcohol to minors in order to punish them. But with new rules in place, authorities just need to show the adults knew what was going on.
Wausau police said teen drinking is brimming over and making a negative impact.
"It causes problems in families. It causes problems in society," said Wausau police department deputy chief Bryan Hilts. "What we're trying to do is stop this cycle by addressing under aged drinking."
"This is designed to put a stiff fine for those who are engaging in that activity," said Wausau mayor Jim Tipple. "It could be a parent. It could be a guardian. It could be a friend. But we're trying to get at the root of the problem."
The city council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night -- giving police the authority to fine anyone up to $5,000 for hosting underage parties. And Mayor Tipple said he'd like to see other cities do the same.
"Our kids should be safe and there's certainly a lot of temptations out there," said Tipple. "Alcohol is just one of them and what we want to do is make sure we can solve the problem together as a community and this is one step in that direction."
Police said they hand out more than 300 citations for under aged drinking every year. But they said that's just the beginning of the problem.
"I would venture to say that virtually every contact that our night shift has with the public is somehow influenced by alcohol," said Hilts.
In the past, police needed to prove someone provided alcohol in order to hold them accountable. But now -- they just have to show the person knew about what was going on. Police said the new ordinance gives them more flexibility and they hope it will make a difference.
"If we can delay the beginning of the use of alcohol, we will reduce the number of people who have problems with alcohol in the future," said Hilts.
This ordinance doesn't change the rules about supervising your own children drinking. It only kicks in if you host other people's children.
Health experts said teen alcohol use can lead to more problems later in life. They said young people who drink before age 15 are five times more likely to have an abuse problem when they grow up.