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Troy and Libby Police Departments receive grants

| March 28, 2008 12:00 AM

The Troy Police Department received notice last week that it will be awarded a grant for enforcing underage drinking laws.

The funds, awarded through the Montana Board of Crime Control, total $7,104 for a 12-month period beginning July 1.

“We asked for a modest amount of money to help implement a program to step up underage drinking enforcement efforts in Troy. The grant's assessment criteria shows that we need to address a problem here,” said Troy Patrol Officer Kit Pearson, who wrote the grant proposal.

Part of the grant award includes an allotment for one department police officer and one Troy-area youth to attend the 10th annual National Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tennessee in August. The conference is sponsored by the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center.

“Anything we can do at the younger level to educate leadership and create an active mentor is valuable,” said Troy Mayor Jim Hammons. “Sometimes there's a barrier between kids and adults, and it's important to have young mentors for peers their own age.”

The police department will consult with community leaders, including educators, to select a strong underage candidate to attend the conference.

Another part of the grant will be used to implement compliance check and shoulder tap programs targeting businesses selling alcohol and adults buying alcohol for underage drinkers. Such programs will utilize the work of underage, undercover buyers.

“My guess is we won't see a consistent problem with establishments selling alcohol directly to underage drinkers,” said Pearson. “I believe we'll find the problem to be young adults buying for underage kids.”

The grant also provides funds for Responsible Beverage Server training in the Troy area through collaboration of several different agencies, including Safe Kids/Safe Communities. The training will be available to employees of establishments that sell alcoholic beverages.

“Without these grants, small jurisdictions like Troy's otherwise wouldn't be able to participate in these programs,” Troy Chief Law Enforcement Officer Mitch Walters said.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted by the state of Montana, the rate of binge drinking among Troy Middle School students has increased from 2001 to 2007 from 12.5 percent to 25.4 percent. During those same years, the statewide average middle school binge drinking has declined from 17.9 percent to 13.1 percent, according to the same surveys.

The YRBS also showed 37 percent of Troy High School students admitted to binge drinking in 2007. The state average for high school students was 32.7 percent.

The YRBS and Prevention Needs Assessment Surveys were used as criteria to assess a need for the grant.

“We have a unique opportunity to make a difference in some kids' lives,” Walters said. We've all heard the stories of tragedy when someone lost their life at an early age because of an alcohol-related accident,” he added.

The Libby Police Department has also been awarded a grant from the Montana Board of Crime Control to combat the problem of underage drinking in the community.

Montana is ranked as the number one state in the nation for youth binge drinking and Lincoln County is one of the top five counties in the state. The Libby Police Department's underage drinking enforcement grant project is called Project ENFORCE.

The acronym stands for Edit Norms, Frustrate Opportunity, Reduce by Consistent Enforcement. Project ENFORCE will support and enhance statewide efforts to address the issues of underage drinking in Montana by targeting the problem in Libby. Libby received a grant in the amount of $13,170.

The goals are to involve youth in law enforcement activities and community coalitions to reduce alcohol sales to minors; to educate the public, the youth, and the alcohol establishments of our community about underage drinking; and to implement innovative programs to combat underage drinking in our community.

Project ENFORCE will reach each of these goals by conducting compliance checks of local establishments; utilizing personnel in overtime saturation patrols, party patrols, and undercover operations; and collaborating with other law enforcement agencies and community organizations and programs such as the Montana Community Challenge Program. The grant also provides funding for some needed equipment and to allow for travel and training of key personnel. One of these trainings is the 10th annual Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center's National Leadership Conference. For the past 10 years, this event has been the premiere research-based conference on underage drinking prevention and enforcement. Project ENFORCE is scheduled to begin this summer.