By Jason KUROSU
The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition (CVDAPC) held a strategic partners meeting at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Friday morning, a meeting meant to attract both current coalition members and possible future members to the cause, as the coalition tries to heighten awareness of youth drug and alcohol abuse.
Of the most direct impacts to the coalition itself was an announcement by Matt Zakarian, president of the CVDAPC and a Glendale police officer. Zakarian said that CVDAPC would be changing its name to one considerably more concise: The Crescenta Valley Alliance.
But for that morning, the meeting still belonged to CVDAPC, allowing local politicians, business and community leaders to hear from those in the thick of enforcement and ask questions about current drug and alcohol laws.
Captain Bill Song of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station introduced himself to the audience. Song brought 22 years of experience with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. to La Crescenta when he was given command of the station in May.
Song said he was encouraged by the lack of crime in the area.
“Crime here is really low around here, including narcotics crimes,” he said.
Sgt. Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Dept. spoke on new legislation relating to drug and alcohol issues, including a bill which would put California medical marijuana dispensaries under the oversight of the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) (the bill failed and Lorenz called the decision “a victory.”). The bill also would have made the sale, or even the furnishing or giving away, of alcohol to minors a felony (currently a misdemeanor). Another failed bill proposed extending alcohol sales from its current cutoff time of 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
The audience was also introduced to Victoria Wood, a supervising ABC agent. Wood spoke about the different strategies and programs the ABC utilizes to enforce restrictions on alcohol sales and availability, particularly when alcohol may be sold or made available to minors.
Among these is the minor decoy/shoulder tap program. Underage individuals will stand near or outside stores that sell alcohol and either attempt to purchase alcohol or ask nearby adults to purchase the alcohol for them. Those seen aiding the minor in obtaining alcohol are arrested.
Wood explained that it’s a three strikes program when it comes to violators, with license suspensions and fines increasing with each strike.
“If you have three strikes in three years, you lose your ABC license,” said Wood. Once licenses are taken, they cannot be used in that same location for at least a year, barring protests by residents and/or law enforcement.
Wood said the program has been effective and that the frequent use of the program has let alcohol vendors know that they are being watched for any deviations.
Wood also spoke about the TRACE (Targeted Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies) program, which punishes not only drunk drivers but the vendors who sold the alcohol to the offending driver, when an accident involves a person under 21. If alcohol was sold to a minor who was later involved in a drunk driving accident, that vendor can have its ABC license suspended or revoked.
Wood praised the coalition’s efforts in preventing alcohol sales to minors, with signs posted near establishments reminding and warning of the legal implications of selling alcohol to minors.
“We really rely on law enforcement and the community to let us know of any problems that they are noticing and we are not able to see,” said Wood. “We’re very thankful for this coalition.”