Fort Mill Times

Boozers: 46 underage drinkers caught by police

FORT MILL TOWNSHIP - Just after midnight Sunday, York County Sheriff's Office deputies broke up a party at the Anne Springs Close Greenway Field Trial Barn at 835 Springfield Parkway, where 46 teens and young adults were cited for possession of beer and liquor by a minor, according to a report.

A similar bust was made by authorities in the township the week before. Opportunity, access to money and kids with free time have turned Fort Mill into a hotspot for teen drinking, according to officials.

"A lot of it has to do with demographics," B.J. Kennedy said. "You have kids with access to money and a lot of parents going out of town a lot. That leaves the kids with spare time."

Kennedy is the commander of the York County Multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit North Office, based in Fort Mill. Officers with his unit said they encountered more situations involving underage drinking than in any other part of York County.

"If they have time and money, they'll be kids," Kennedy said.

Sunday's bust followed a noise complaint from a neighbor of the Field Trial Barn, the report stated. When officers arrived the revelers scattered and more patrol units were called in to deal with the crowd. Two Fort Mill teens, Cameron Stuart Johnson, 18, of 440 Saint Michaels Way, and Jeremy Bryant Joyner, 19, of 305 Harris St., were among the minors cited. Of the others, seven live in Rock Hill. Others came from as far away as Hilton Head, Mt. Pleasant and Isle of Palms, as well as several other small and large towns around North and South Carolina.

The bust is likely to prompt some changes at the Greenway, according to Director Bill Steele. He declined to name the person who rented the barn for the evening, but said that person was older than 21.

"We don't rent to anyone under 21," Steele said.

The Greenway also doesn't rent out facilities for use after midnight, he said. Until Saturday, the Greenway did not

have a staff member stationed at the Field Trial Barn when it was rented for private use, but that policy is now being reviewed. Anyone renting one of the Greenway's facilities also must sign a waiver releasing the Greenway from all responsibility.

"This happened at 12:02," Steele said. "So this leads me to believe we might need more presence out there."

He added Sunday was the first time anything like this has happened on the Greenway that he's aware of.

The MDEU has been cracking down on underage drinking recently in conjunction with Keystone Substance Abuse Services. The partnership qualifies for a state grant that is used to train officers in alcohol abuse prevention and pays their overtime for hours spent working compliance checks at liquor, grocery and convenience stores and breaking up underage parties.

Usually the parents aren't home when MDEU officers arrive, Kennedy said. It was an anomaly last week when officers charged 42-year-old Anna Francis Pittman, of 128 Fox Run Drive, with hosting an underage drinking party.

"Most of the time they have an older brother or sister or friend that gets them the liquor," Kennedy said. "There was a parent there last week, but I've never encountered a parent at one myself."

Officers rarely find fake IDs, he added.

The partnership between MDEU and Keystone began two years ago. Through most of last year the officers focused on York County retailers, making sure they didn't sell to anyone younger than 21.

"Last year, 36 percent were not in compliance," Keystone's Jane Aleva said. "Now it's improved to 23 percent. We know we're making progress."

Since then, a slate of new tougher drinking laws have gone into effect, and because every member of the unit has gone through the training course, they moved some funds from training to cover party patrols, Aleva said.