Recent teen drinking incidents in Barrington invoke response from police


Barrington Police Chief John LaCross remembers clearly the nickname some members of the Barrington High School Class of 2008 gave themselves: “Intoxicate 08.”

That year, Barrington police made more than 30 underage drinking arrests in town. This year, the department has made just eight underage drinking arrests, but two recent incidents have the veteran police chief concerned.

On June 12, police responded to a local home after a 17-year-old boy drank 7 or 8 shots of vodka and became sick. Ten days before that, a 15-year-old Barrington girl downed a bottle of whiskey while hanging out with friends at Mussachuck Beach and then passed out. In both cases, rescue personnel rushed the teenagers to the hospital for possible cases of alcohol poisoning. Meanwhile, the police chief is again sharing a message of proactive involvement to the community.

“It’s a collective responsibility,” he said. “Parents, coaches, friends… (They need to say) ‘Hey, that’s not a good move.’” 

Chief LaCross said he believes that the abstinence message has been shared more in Barrington, and that prior tragedies have acted as clear reminders of consequences for underage drinking. He pointed to 2007, when two Barrington teenagers died in alcohol-related incidents and two other young adults in town died in drunk-driving accidents.

“But over time, people tend to forget what happened,” Chief LaCross added.

That’s why it’s important, said the chief, for parents to stay proactive. He said he encourages parents to check their teenagers’ breath after they’ve been out with friends, and to call and check with other parents when teens say they are sleeping over a friend’s house.

“Sleepovers … that’s a common denominator for trouble,” he said.

Last year, Barrington police made a number of arrests following an underage drinking party at a home on Elm Lane. Local teenagers actually broke into the unoccupied home and badly vandalized the house during the incident. Chief LaCross said some of the teenagers who were involved in the incident had told their parents they were sleeping over a friend’s house, when in fact, the teenagers were at the house party.

Chief LaCross said parents should call their children’s friend’s parents to check and make sure that the sleepover is legitimate.

“They should come right out and ask them ‘What’s your stance on underage drinking?’ They should call and get the basic information: who, what, when, where, why,” the chief said, adding that it’s also important for the teens to observe a curfew. 

Chief LaCross said he believes the recent group of graduates is a shining example of how proactive communication can benefit parents and young people.

“I think people are getting it. I think the young adults are getting it,” he said. “There’s a message that it’s not cool to be ‘Intoxicate 08.’ It’s cool not to drink.”

Chief LaCross pointed to the former Barrington High School student who built her senior project around the message “Shatter the illusion,” which worked to dispel the myth that all local high school students drink; the project reportedly found that the majority of students at Barrington High School did not drink alcohol.

The police chief also pointed to the importance of parents talking to their children. He said studies have found that teenagers actually do listen to their parents — approximately 75 percent of teenagers will follow their parents’ instruction, he added.

“It’s important. Kids will pay attention to what their parents tell them. If we do take this seriously, so will the young adults,” he said, adding that well-behaved recent graduates at Barrington High School are a credit to their parents and the open lines of communication established early on. “I really think young adults will listen more to their parents than police officers.”

Chief LaCross said the local department will also continue to fund additional party patrols for the summer months. “We’re just trying to be preventative,” he said.

Underage drinking arrests

Some years are better than others when it comes to underage drinking arrests in Barrington. Following is a list of the underage drinking arrests in town since 2008:

• 2008: 33

• 2009: 13

• 2010: 9

• 2011: 22

• 2012: 38 (included numerous arrests from Elm Lane house party)

• 2013: 8

How to handle parties

Late spring is a busy time for graduation and end-of-the-school year parties. And often, teenagers and their parents are invited to their gatherings, prompting the question “Should people serve alcohol to adults where teenagers are present?” Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said he would not have alcohol at the graduation party.

“I would draw the line. I’d play it safe. … Just have the party for the kids, not the adults,” he said.

For those people who wish to serve adult beverages to the adults, the chief said it’s important to have someone who is responsible for watching over the drink coolers. He said it is very difficult for the party hosts to watch the coolers and mingle with friends.

“If you’ve got it there, you better have someone there all the time to watch that alcohol,” he said.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.