Social host ordinance nets zero citations

The parties rage on, but it appears Laguna Beach parents are keeping a closer eye on what minors pour into their cups.

In the first year of the city's social host ordinance — which penalizes adults who provide or allow minors to drink alcohol in their homes — the Laguna Beach Police Department didn't issue any citations, according to police statistics that track a period ending Monday.

LBPD Capt. Jason Kravetz credits the amount of exposure the matter received with raising public awareness.

"The attention this issue received last year helped educate the public about the issue," Kravetz said via email. "Even the handful of residences where we were having the problems have stopped. It is still an amazing tool to be able to use, but fortunately we haven't had to use it."

The law makes it illegal for anyone over the age of 21 controlling a premises, such as a home or apartment, to knowingly allow minors to gather to consume alcohol, according to the city's municipal code.

First-time offenders will receive a civil citation and be required to attend counseling sessions, while those who refuse will be fined $1,000, according to a December 2012 Coastline Pilot story.

Subsequent violations will be misdemeanors, which could lead to jail time as well as a $1,000 fine set by state law.

While police haven't issued any ordinance violations this year, it doesn't mean minors are necessarily drinking less.

Police cited 22 minors ages 12 to 17 for alcohol possession from Jan. 1 to Monday — five more violations than for the same period last year.

Three additional minors were arrested for allegedly driving under the influence as of Dec. 23 compared with four minors for the same period last year, police said.

The department fielded nearly as many calls for loud parties — 256 compared with 300 for the same period last year.

Even with zero social host citations, Councilman Steve Dicterow isn't convinced the ordinance is necessary and questioned whether it attacks the root problem — underage drinking.

He cited the near identical number of calls for loud parties in 2012 and 2013.

"What would be more telling is to find out how many times an officer is called to a site and had to determine whether to issue a citation," said Dicterow, who along with Councilman Kelly Boyd, opposed the ordinance. "The fact that maybe we don't have much of a problem [with minors drinking at houses with adults present] maybe means [the social host ordinance] is a little overkill."

Laguna police also detained four juveniles for public intoxication in 2012, but have not detained any in 2013, according to Kravetz.

Laguna Beach is one of eight Orange County cities with a social host ordinance.

County supervisors voted against a proposed ordinance that would have applied to unincorporated county areas at its Dec. 17 meeting, according to the Orange County Register.

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