New Visalia law stiffens penalty for underage drinking

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Police in Visalia believe a new city law will give them more teeth when it comes to dealing with underage drinking.

It's an ordinance that cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Tulare already have on the books.

Now, at the recommendation of police, Visalia City Council is moving forward with their own social host ordinance.

"It's something that is necessary but I think if parents took ownership so to speak of the situation, it would probably be something we don't need to have," said Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen.

Under the new ordinance, police would be able to fine the adult host or the property owner for a party where underage drinking is taking place, even if they're not home.

The fine is $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second time within a year, and $500 for any additional violations.

Police say social host ordinances are a deterrent to rowdy parties, and an effective tool to help them control underage drinking-where the consequences for the responsible party are immediate and there's less of a drain on police resources.

Visalia police officers have responded to 5,800 loud party calls since 2013, and they often involve underage drinking.

Kathy Casey is the mother of two teenage boys. She supports a social host ordinance, hoping it will make parents more accountable for their kid's actions.

"I agree that parents need to be responsible for what's going on in their own home, especially if you have kids that are under 18," Casey said.

Mayor Nelsen says it's unfortunate the problem is bad enough that the city has to pass a social host ordinance.

But he says underage drinking is a huge problem.

And with the new rules, he hopes more parents will get the picture.

"I don't think it's the role of whether it be city government, state government, or federal government to involve themselves in how you raise your children," he said. "But I think it is the role of city government, state or federal to ensure the safety of everybody involved."

There will be another reading of the ordinance within the month.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after that.
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