START stops underage drinking

The Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team (START) had a busy Saturday night in Burlington.When the Burlington Police called START on April 24, 93 were people ticketed and five were arrested, all related to underage drinking violations. “START is a state-funded program,” Shelburne Police Sergeant Allen Fortin said, “We go out and look for underage kids drinking.”That Saturday, officers from departments around the county were called into several locations in Burlington for START patrol, he said.”I was at a party when the police knocked on the door at 3 a.m. … they had a warrant” sophomore Henry Kellogg said, “People were jumping out of windows and running upstairs.”START breathalyzed every minor. Those found drinking either received a $150 fine or were summoned to a Teen Alcohol Safety Program (TASP) with a possible $300 noncompliance fee, Kellogg said.Fortin said that the penalties varied because both Burlington police and START officers were at the party.”If START dealt with a particular individual, because we may not be from Burlington, we cannot write a local ordinance,” Fortin said. “So individuals who dealt with a START officer have to go through what is called diversion, and if they do go through that the ticket is voided.” Those going through diversion either perform community service or go through some kind of rehabilitation.Kellogg said he believes both penalties were given at the party he attended. “Everyone I saw leaving the party — maybe 30, 40 people — got either a paper or a fine,” Kellogg said. “People were on the curb crying because they knew they were going to the drunk tank — the whole thing took nearly two hours.”START’s intention is to reduce minors’ access to alcohol, reduce highway fatalities, reduce drinking parties and reduce adults’ sanctioning of underage drinking, according to the website.”On [April] 24 we were in Burlington because [the Burlington Police Department] asked us to come out and help,” Fortin said. “Normally what happens is Burlington gets called to a huge party and they can’t handle it because there are too many kids there, so they call START.”This year’s Chittenden County START grant was $30,000, and was issued by the Vermont Department of Health, Williston Police Financial Director Susan Lamb said.