Hot line will help track liquor sales to minors
Liquor Commission investigators and police will team up to follow up on calls
TRYING to curb underage drinking, especially during graduation season, the Honolulu Liquor Commission announced yesterday that it has agreed to share information it receives on its 24-hour complaint hot line with the Honolulu Police Department.
"We haven't given out as many citations as should be, so we're hoping with the help of the community and the Police Department, we'll increase the crackdown on those providing liquor to minors," Liquor Administrator Dewey Kim said after a news conference yesterday at the state Capitol.
The hot line (523-4194) instructs callers to leave a message containing contact information and a detailed report of an ongoing violation. The contact information is optional but highly encouraged so investigators can follow up, Kim said.
Anyone calling to report a current isolated incident is encouraged to call 911.
"We have reduced the number of stores selling to minors," said police Maj. Bart Huber, of the Juvenile Services Division. "What we need is more help from the public."
Kim, who became Liquor Commission administrator two months ago, said he does not know how many complaints are received on a daily basis.
But he said the hot line is checked once or twice a day by an investigator who records complaints in a document. Kim said it usually takes one to two days to investigate a complaint.
"It has a good chance of succeeding, but only time will tell how much it is used and how much enforcement results from it," said Carol McNamee, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving-Hawaii. "I think with the HPD as a partner, there is a better chance of enforcement, and the media coverage should help get the word out."
State Department of Health statistics show that overall underage drinking is declining, yet alcohol still remains the most abused substance among Hawaii's youth.
During the Memorial Day weekend, HPD arrested at least 20 minors for alcohol-related offenses. At least three more were cited.
HPD officers said underage drinkers must attend counseling sessions, and adults who provide them with alcohol could face criminal misdemeanor charges.
A Liquor Commission official said establishments cited for selling alcohol to underage drinkers could face a $2,000 fine or suspension/revocation of licenses to sell liquor.
Last year, the commission issued more than 200 citations to businesses for selling alcohol to underage drinkers.
"It (the hot line) should serve as a deterrent and reminder that businesses and people could get in trouble since they can be reported very easily," said McNamee, also the MADD-Hawaii vice president of public policy.
"It's not OK for parents and well-meaning adults to serve liquor to minors, to have parties serving alcohol ... and it's illegal," Attorney General Mark Bennett said. "They could be setting in motion a chain of events that could lead to tragedy."