The Breakthrough Task Force of Big Bear Recovery Services continues to move forward with efforts to establish a social host ordinance, in an effort to curb underage drinking in the Big Bear Valley. Prevention Specialist Bonnie Shaffer, who first initiated the campaign when Big Bear Recovery Services was Operation Breakthrough, has partnered with representatives from the Big Bear and Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Stations, County Supervisor Neil Derry’s office, the Rim Youth Prevention Leadership Coalition in Running Springs, law enforcement from the U.S. Forest Service and concerned Big Bear citizens to discuss difficulties facing law enforcement when responding to underage drinking parties. It is illegal for adults to furnish alcohol to individuals under age 21, yet there are no restrictions against adults providing a place for underage drinking to occur, so the Task Force and mountain law enforcement officials are reviewing several social host accountability laws, which can impose both civil and criminal penalties. According to Task Force member and Sheriff’s Lieutenant Errol Bechtel, “This is a collaborative effort between mountain agencies to better direct our efforts to eliminate underage access to alcohol.”
Per a 2008 California Healthy Kids Survey, the age most often reported when young people first use alcohol in San Bernardino County is 12 years old. Closer to home, in a recent survey of 378 Big Bear youth ages 15 to 17, almost 40 percent reported that alcohol was “very easy” to access, while just over 30 percent indicated that alcohol was “fairly easy” to get; the survey also indicated that the number one source of alcohol for youth is house parties.
In addition to house parties, a point of concern for the Task Force is the amount of underage partying that takes place on the forest, which only has one officer assigned to patrol for such instances. Forest Service law enforcement officer Mark Snyder says of the Task Force, “The Forest Service was happy to participate in this effort as these problems do not stop at the borders of towns, but continue into the forest as well. It will be in everyone’s best interest to remember that the social host ordinance will be applicable within the San Bernardino National Forest.”
The Task Force will next meet in mid-January, to continue the drafting of a social host ordinance that will be presented to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the City Council of Big Bear Lake for approval within their jurisdictions. Those interested in contributing to the effort to eliminate underage drinking in our community and our county are welcome to call the Breakthrough Task Force at 878-0101 to participate in the process.