Beginning April 1, 2010, the McLeod Zero Adult Provider (ZAP) Initiative was started to focus on finding the illegal providers of alcohol at underage drinking parties, or anytime a young person is found to have consumed alcohol illegally. ZAP source investigations reduce access to alcohol by identifying and charging the illegal providers of alcohol.  If someone is charged with underage possession or consumption, the priority for law enforcement is to find out how the alcohol got there.  To stop underage drinking, McLeod County law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders and judges are working together more effectively to stop the flow of alcohol to youth.

 When McLeod County makes it difficult for kids to get alcohol, we provide a safer and healthier environment for our youth.
– Scott Rehmann, McLeod County Sheriff.

All too often, efforts to prevent underage drinking focus solely on youth themselves with the thought that if we can educate kids, make them not want to try alcohol, we can stop underage drinking.  The truth is in virtually every case of underage drinking, one will find an adult who provided the alcohol – an older friend or sibling, a clerk at a convenience store, or sometimes even a parent.

Law Enforcement Changes:
In McLeod County, officers deal more commonly with large field parties or house parties with high school students. Underage drinking parties are treated as a crime scene.  All county law enforcement departments have signed a mutual aid agreement which allows them to help each other on underage drinking parties. By sharing resources, law enforcement investigation and response at underage drinking parties is significantly increased.

Court Changes:
Courts play a major role in the picture of underage drinking.  The District Court Judges Savre and Conkel were interested in the data reflecting the problem underage drinking is in McLeod County, and agreed that preventing underage drinking should be taken seriously. Judge Savre stated that he would like to make sure all consequences are fair, but not focus on a “cookie cutter” response to all charges. Judge Conkel reiterated that “the judicial response to charges would be fair and impartial, not pre-determined before the individual case is heard”. Project partners agreed that it is important to provide consequences that would have an impact on behavior of the individual as well as send a message to the community that providing alcohol to kids is a serious offense. Both Judges stated that they would listen carefully to the recommendations of the Prosecuting attorneys in court regarding court penalties and interventions.

The coalition focuses efforts on a stronger, more effective law enforcement response to youth access to alcohol in McLeod County and a streamlined response to underage drinking in the court system, which required change at the county level.