A Chula Vista Police cruiser at night. Courtesy of the department

By Gabriel Mateus

The South Bay Youth 4 Change youth coalition wants to recognize the efforts of the Chula Vista Police Department for conducting enforcement sweeps targeting underage drinking during last year’s concert season at the Sleep Train Amphitheater.

We want to say thank you for protecting our peers by sending the message that underage drinking will not be tolerated during tailgating or any other time.

The best approach to prevent teenagers from substance use problems is to keep alcohol and drugs out of the hands of those of us who are underage. Chula Vista did just that last year during the summer concert series at the amphitheater.

There were 82 arrests or citations for minors in possession of alcohol for the calendar year 2015 related to underage drinking at the amphitheater and four citations for providing alcohol to minors, according to the Chula Vista Police Department.

Those under the legal drinking age of 21 who are found guilty of possessing alcohol face at least a $250 fine and 24 hours of community service. Adults found guilty of providing alcohol to underage drinkers face at least a $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service.

Despite excessive availability inside the venue with so many point of sale locations, we didn’t see sales to minors occurring during our assessments at the concerts from 2012 through 2015. The alcohol vendors appeared to be well trained in responsible beverage sales and service.

Gabriel Mateus

The problem has always been free flowing alcohol among partiers who were tailgating before and after the concerts in the unpaved parking areas. We even witnessed several groups providing beer bong experiences to young people who appeared to be underage.

Parents might do their best to prevent underage drinking at home only to drop them off at a concert where older friends or even adult strangers could easily share popular drinks that are enticing to teens, such as beer, hard lemonade or flavored vodka.

Because of last year’s crackdown it was a safer summer concert series for teens like us who want to hear some great music and have a good time with our family and friends.

The prevention of underage drinking is a win-win, for parents, teens and the community. Kids who start drinking early are at much higher risk for addiction once they are adults.

Some may think it is okay to share a drink with an underage friend. The truth is, teens need to drink only half as much as adults to suffer the same negative effects. We believe a concert experience is definitely better without the barrage of activities that come with excessive drinking, such as public vomiting, public urination and obnoxious behaviors.

Alcohol is the number one drug of choice and the leading contributor to death from injuries for people under age 21. This includes nearly half of all fatal teen car crashes, according to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Most of these crashes occur during the summer months of June, July and August.

School is almost out and the next summer concert season is right around the corner. The South Bay Youth 4 Change hopes those who are responsible for the concert venue and parking lots will once again make prevention of underage drinking a priority.

Let’s hope the word is out — providing alcohol to anyone under age 21 years is dangerous and has consequences. Not only that, but it’s against the law.

Gabriel Mateus is past president of South Bay Youth for Change and a graduating senior at Hilltop High School. He will be attending the United States Naval Academy in the fall, of 2016. Youth group members work together to prevent alcohol and drug abuse and to create positive community change.            

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