New effort to stop underage drinking in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New effort to stop underage drinking in Burlington

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"It's going to happen. There's no way of totally getting around it," said Ada Peters, a freshman at the University of Vermont.

Students say underage drinking is an undeniable part of college culture.

"The week is pretty tough, so especially on the weekends you like to go out be with friends and drink," said Travis Whiteley, a sophomore at UVM.

But police say if you're not 21-- watch out. A special law enforcement team called START aimed at curbing underage drinking is stepping up enforcement at the start of the academic year. The proactive patrol is staffed by volunteers from Chittenden County police departments, liquor control and DMV.

"We want to be able to let the kids know that we're out here," said Sgt. Allen Fortin of the Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team.

Police say Burlington's Hill Section neighborhood is where they get the most complaints about loud parties and underage drinking. So that's where five undercover officers focused their attention this past weekend.

"You'll see a bunch of kids walking through hollering, screaming, using foul language. It's a rat race," said Gerald Lumbre of Burlington.

Lumbre has been trying to tune out his rambunctious college neighbors for 40 years. But he says it gets harder every semester.

"They set off fireworks constantly. It's not Fourth of July. But the police come by and they don't do nothing about it," Lumbre said.

Police say they are trying to ease community tensions. Friday the team stopped 130 kids. Six fake IDs were confiscated and 15 people were cited for underage drinking or drug possession. UVM administrators say those citations go directly into student records and they can face a range of disciplinary actions from community service to expulsion. Yet kids say this crackdown won't change what they do.

"They can come out in the streets, but they're not going to go into the houses unless something huge is going on, which it usually isn't. So they're just going to drink inside," Peters said.

"We're looking for the safety part of it," Fortin said. "So I have no issue of having the officers go and write a search warrant if we know there's underage drinking in that house and go in if they have to."

Police say these special patrols are scheduled for the next three weekends.

UVM students aren't the only culprits. The START team says it also helped Colchester police break up an underage party at St. Michael's College.

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