HANCOCK COUNTY — Fifteen teenagers were arrested early Saturday for underage drinking after a party was broken up by local police, officials said.
Leaders of Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse, the local nonprofit that funds Hancock County’s Underage Drinking Task Force, said they’ve struggled in recent months to dispel rumors that the task force has disbanded.
But the team of officers from around the county still regularly patrols for parties where teens are consuming alcohol, said Tim Retherford, director of Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse.
The task force, which was created in 2013, is comprised of more than 30 officers from every law enforcement agency in the county. Together, they put extra manpower on the streets, coordinate with school officials to share information about rumors of parties and educate teens about the dangers of binge drinking.
The bust over the weekend should serve as evidence to students that the task force is still out in full force, and officers aren’t going to stop patrols anytime soon, Retherford said.
Neighbors contacted police late Friday night to complain about loud music coming from a home in the 10600 block of North Meridian Road in Fortville, 911 dispatch records show.
One caller told 911 dispatchers crowds of people could be seen coming and going from the house — and it was clear many of them were underage, according to records.
Police arrived at the property just after midnight Saturday, records show. There, they found at least 15 underage-drinkers, Hancock County Sheriff’s Maj. Brad Burkhart said.
Thirteen of those arrested were younger than 18, Burkhart said. Two, however, were older than 18 and were arrested and charged as adults, he said.
Logan C. Titara, 18, 2249 Collins Way, Greenfield, and Cory D. Turner, 18, 3421 E. County Road 1000N, Greenfield, each face a charge of illegal consumption of an alcohol beverage as a Class C Misdemeanor, court records show.
The other 13 minors were taken to the sheriff’s department, where parents or guardians picked them up. They’ll face juvenile charges filed through the Hancock County Probation Office.
Twenty teens have been arrested by the task force so far this year, officials said, and Saturday’s party marks the biggest bust in 2016.
Since its inception, nearly 300 teens have been arrested for underage drinking thanks to the task force’s efforts.
Retherford said he believes the team’s message is being received by most teens in Hancock County, as the number of underage students being arrested for consuming alcohol before they’re 21 is shrinking.
When the task force first began its patrols, police were arresting dozens of teens at time, Retherford said. The first bust in 2013 resulted in nearly 30 kids being charged with underage drinking. That year, more than 120 underage drinkers were arrested, he said.
But as word of the task force spread, the parties became smaller and fewer students admitted to underage drinking in annual surveys administered to local high school students by Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse, Retherford said.
In 2013, one in five high school seniors reported using alcohol; now those statistics are one in 10, he said.
Those statistics are proof that the underage drinking task force has acted as a deterrent for students as much as it’s been a tool for law enforcement, Retherford said.
Fear of having a party and being caught by police drinking underage, coupled with education about the dangers of binge drinking, keeps kids from turning to booze for a good time, he said.
An anonymous tip line operated by the task force has helped law enforcement keep teen parties in check, police said. Parties can be reported by calling 477-2789.