Some good news and some bad news came out of a decoy sting conducted in Twentynine Palms to catch adults willing to buy alcohol to kids.
The good news: Most of the 36 or so adults who were approached by the young sheriff Explorers denied their requests for alcohol. Some even took the extra step of alerting law enforcement.
The bad news: Three people let temptation override common sense, provided alcohol to minors and were promptly arrested and cited. They are now facing the possibility of some hefty fines.
More bad news: The sting was prompted by ongoing complaints about underage drinkers in Twentynine Palms.
Alcohol use by young people is a problem shared by communities across the Morongo Basin.
Nationwide, fewer minors are drinking alcohol than in decades past, but just last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement that childhood drinking is still something to be concerned about.
Plenty of adults think drinking and getting drunk is just something kids will do — a rite of passage, a normal part of growing up.
That might be true, but drinking poses a lot of risks for young people in particular.
The pediatricians group says substance use among young people is often paired with other psychiatric illnesses like anxiety and disruptive disorders, and can increase the risk of suicide attempts.
The younger someone starts drinking, the greater their risk of developing an alcohol disorder later in life, they said.
And when teenagers drink, they’re more likely to binge drink — which means they’re more likely to drive drunk and to suffer alcohol poisoning. Which means they’re more likely to die.
Why do kids drink? Maybe because they’re bored and unsupervised during the summer.
Maybe their parents won’t or can’t pay attention to them or influence them. Maybe their parents are working three jobs to make ends meet and can’t keep an eye on them. Or maybe their parents are the ones giving them the alcohol in the first place.
Maybe it’s because getting drunk looks cool and funny on TV, movies and the internet. Maybe they drink because they want to be part of a group of friends hanging out.
For a few, it’s certainly because they are already alcoholics. Others are self-medicating their anxieties and depression.
There are plenty of reasons kids drink — just like there are plenty that adults do. In the sting Saturday, just three people agreed to buy alcohol for the kids volunteering with the sheriff’s station. But there must be lots more adults either providing kids with alcohol or not keeping a close enough eye on their own supply.
Maybe it shouldn’t be up to a stranger near the door of the 7-Eleven to explain to a child why they shouldn’t be drinking alcohol; maybe that should be the parents’ job. But we’re all important parts of this community — adults and kids alike. Too many of us have been at vigils and funerals for people taken by alcoholism, drunk driving or other alcohol-related causes. Too many of us know once-promising people whose futures inexorably dimmed as they started spending days and nights drinking and partying.
With all that in mind, hopefully, operations like this will help adults learn not to play the cool uncle and give alcohol to kids.
It might seem harmless or normal to do some kids a solid and pick up a bottle for them when you’re in the store. But you could be doing them a lot of harm. And let’s face it. They’re teenagers. They’re not going to think you’re cool anyway.