Police are gearing up to conduct Operation Safe Prom as part of a program to stop teenagers from drinking during prom season.
When prom season takes off, local hospitals frequently notice a spike in emergency room discharges for underage alcohol abuse, according to a law enforcement representative.
Law enforcement held an event Friday morning at the the San Diego County Office of Education to announce the operation, said the representative. The event was held at 10 a.m. on the 6400 block of Linda Vista Road.
Numerous studies have revealed that underage drinking poses a serious health issue in San Diego County, said the representative. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), almost two-thirds of 11th graders say it's "fairly easy" or "very easy" for them to get alcohol.
Police and deputies plan to aggressively enforce social host laws that prohibit anyone from hosting underage drinking parties in San Diego County this prom season. It's part of a countywide effort to prevent alcohol-related deaths, injuries and underage drinking.
A crackdown on underage drinking will include extra DUI checkpoints, roving DUI patrols and stepped-up enforcement of social host laws across the county, said the representative.
At the event, law enforcement reminded the public that all 18 cities and unincorporated areas in San Diego County have passed ordinances that make it illegal to host underage drinking parties.
Nearly 500 misdemeanor social host citations have been issued by local law enforcement agencies since 2002, said the representative. Possible consequences for violators include up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine as well as additional fines.
In most cases, neighbors are not afraid to call police to report underage drinking parties, said the representative. Between 2011 and 2013, the Sheriff's Department wrote 92 social host citations.
Researchers found more than 90 percent of those citations were reported by neighbors affected by noise, minors vomiting outside homes, fights, sexual assaults and even gunfire, said the representative.
Half the time, deputies say they would find severely intoxicated guests at the underage drinking parties who were unable to care for themselves and required medical aid for alcohol poisoning or injuries.
Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter, Undersheriff Mark Elvin, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Interim San Diego County Schools Superintendent Edward Velasquez and Ninth District PTA Vice President Carol Green attended the event.