Barrington parents, police talk teen parties
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:46AM
BARRINGTON — A large group Barrington parents turned out for a meeting with local police leaders last week to express concerns related to teen parties and substance abuse.
Some of the parents said they are wary of hosting any type of gathering, due to fears of what could happen if there are drugs or alcohol snuck into the home or if circumstances get out of hand.
Barrington Police Chief Jerry Libit and detective John McGowan, who provided the law enforcement perspective Jan. 23 at Barrington High School, told parents that each party and situation is unique, so they treat any incident on a case-by-case basis.
“It depends entirely on the circumstances,” Libit said.
Officers hold the authority to take parents into custody, or parents can be cited and ordered to an adjudication hearing. There also is a fine that ranges from $250 to $750 for hosting an illegal party, Libit said.
“It’s the officer’s consideration of the circumstances and the cooperation of those involved,” Libit said. “You have to be reasonable. Did they take any steps to monitor what’s going on?”
Parents at the Jan. 23 meeting also asked if they would get in legal trouble if they were unaware that there were drugs or alcohol present at a party at their home.
Libit said a fine or legal ramifications may be increased for parents who are aware of the activities, but he repeated that it depends on the individual situation.
He explained that parents could say they were unaware, but officers would still investigate circumstances like how many cars are in the driveway, the noise level, and if there is a history of law enforcement issues at that particular residence.
“They theoretically wouldn’t be guilty,” Libit said of parents who claim not to know of illegal activity. “But a judge would consider all the facts.”
Libit added that there are civil liabilities a parent can face if their child or one of their child’s friends leaves the home intoxicated and is injured or killed.
Parents also expressed concerns about search and seizure issues that come with police entering their home. Detective McGowan said police are allowed to enter a home without a warrant if they are aware of illegal possession or consumption of drugs or alcohol inside.
“I don’t think there’s any magic bullet,” said McGowan, adding that parents should consider contacting police before the party to alert them.
That preemptive action, McGowan said, could protect parents.
“Make us aware before we become aware,” he said.
Parents also asked if their child could get into legal trouble if they are at a party but are not drinking or using drugs. That situation, police said, also is considered on a case-by-case basis.
“You’re not totally immune to it,” said McGowan, explaining that the penalties for possession and consumption are very similar.
If the individual is not in possession and removes him or herself from the situation, McGowan explained, they have a better chance of avoiding legal ramifications.
A recent survey from the Lake County Health Department asked students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 about alcohol consumption. According to the survey, the most common way minors acquire alcohol was friends and parties.
After hearing the discussion, South Barrington parent Jackie Kapcheck said she thinks hosting any party is too risky because of the possibility that illegal activities could occur.
“I think we as parents have more fear than the kids because of the legal side,” said Kapcheck. “The whole prospect frightens me. It’s like a moving target.”