The Berkeley Police Department addressed growing concerns related to teen parties in Berkeley at the Northbrae Church Community Center last Thursday, two days before a teenage party in the city ended in the death of one of the parents.
In February, a teenager was also killed at a Berkeley house party.
The forum “How Many Parties Are Too Many?” was well attended by parents of Berkeley teenagers concerned about the sudden rise in violence and vandalism at house parties in the city. About 50 people filled the meeting room at the center.
The majority of teen parties in the city take place in the south campus area, followed by the north campus area, according to the police. The West Berkeley area has had the least number of parties recently.
The importance of having a chaperone present at teen parties could not be stressed enough, police said. The problem of underage drinking was also discussed at great length.
The police also shared the results of a study conducted by the Alameda County Behavioral & Healthcare Services which found that 58 percent of Berkeley High School students said they had consumed alcohol in the last three days compared to zero percent of Berkeley Alternative High School students. In contrast, 17 to 35 percent of students in Alameda County admitted to consuming alcohol over the same period. However, 6 percent of Berkeley High students had said that it was easy to get alcohol in Berkeley compared to 23 percent at the alternative high school.
BDP Area Coordinator Officer Dave Nutterfield outlined social factors such as peer pressure and technology that lead to out-of-control teen parties.
“Because of technology such as cell phones and myspace.com, parties attract up to 250 kids instead of the 20 or 30 that were originally invited,” he said. “In order to control those 250 to 300 rowdy kids, 75 percent of the Berkeley police force is taken up on certain days.”
Four to six officers from Berkeley police’s “Party Control Unit” patrol the neighborhoods every weekend. Nutterfield said.
He also described ways in which peers could control parties that went out of control.
“Always have a designated person on the spot to call 911,” he said. “It’s also a good idea to turn off lights, music and ask people to leave immediately.”
Nutterfield added that most teenagers were afraid to contact the police for help because alcohol or drugs could be found on the party premises. He said, “Don’t be afraid to call us because of the presence of alcohol or drugs. We just want to make sure that you get home safe.”
In case the parents are out of town and the party goes out of bounds, neighbors have a very important role to play in notifying the police.
“Parents should also let neighbors know from before that they are leaving town and need them to keep a close eye on their children in case parties are thrown,” Nutterfield said.
Officer Jessica Nabozney told the group about the dangers of teenagers chatting online with strangers.
“There’s a whole lot of sick people out there waiting to take advantage of your child,” she said. “It is important to keep an eye on Internet activities.””