A weekend birthday party that ended with underage drinking charges against 20 teenagers marked the latest example of an emerging trend, law enforcement and substance-abuse officials said Monday.
"It's sad to say, but this happens quite often throughout York County," said Capt. Allen Brandon of the York County Sheriff's Office. "Parents need to be responsible -- not only to themselves but to their children. Having an alcohol party ... puts you at a great risk."
Michelle Renee Boucher told authorities she hosted a party Saturday night at her home in Fort Mill to celebrate her daughter's 18th birthday.
When deputies arrived just after midnight at the home on Doves Road, they found teenagers hanging out in the backyard near two beer kegs and "a massive amount of empty cups," according to reports.
Boucher later told investigators that she bought the two kegs at a beverage supply store near Carowinds.
On Monday, Boucher, 41, declined to comment on the case. She faces charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and transfer of beer to a minor.
The family recently moved to Fort Mill from the Charlotte area, authorities said. That could explain why only two of the teenagers were from Fort Mill; the others were from Charlotte, Pineville, N.C., and Matthews, N.C., arrest records show.
So far this year, more than 370 alcohol-related charges have been filed against minors across York County. An estimated 219 of those charges -- about 59 percent -- have been in Fort Mill Township, the Sheriff's Office figures show. The numbers do not include Rock Hill, where the city police department makes its own arrests.
Experts point to the relative affluence of Fort Mill to explain the trend. They say teenagers from wealthier families are more likely to have access to beer and liquor.
Increased use of alcohol among teens is blamed for rising vandalism and violence, including fistfights and sexual assaults. Also, more girls are drinking than in the past, studies have found.
Parents often are naive about teen drinking, and when they are aware, they don't take it seriously enough, said Jane Alleva, community relations director for Keystone Substance Abuse Services.
"It's parents wanting to be friends with their kids," Alleva said, "and forgetting that they are the parents. They don't want to not be liked.
"If we could get parents to understand the role that they play, we would see underage drinking drop."