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Underage Drinking in Oakland Target of $70K in Grants

A total of $70,000 will be flowing into the residential portions of Oakland over the next two years to help combat underage and so-called nuisance drinking.

“We’re going to measure success over two years, and on going, by a reduction in the number of highly disruptive, illegal, under-age, student binge drinking parties,” said Geof Becker, co-chair of the Oakland community code enforcement effort, Oakwatch.

The grants come from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and will be dolled out to the Carnegie Mellon University Police Department and the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.  

Becker said residents are having to call police every Thursday through Sunday night during the school year to break up the parties. 

“Unless you see it, it’s really hard to understand how disruptive and violent and painful these parties have become to residents of Oakland,” Becker said. “By the end of the night there are more than 100 to 200 people in an a small two or three apartment block and they are loud, they are obnoxious, they are drinking, they are breaking stuff and they just will not accede to any enforcement or control.”

Details have not yet finalized but the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) plans to use a portion of its $40,000 grant to hire off-duty police officers to enforce drinking laws and a portion to hire a part-time staff member to do outreach with landlords and students.

“Oakland is a diverse neighborhood with families, long time residents, young professionals,” said OPDC Executive Director Wanda Witson. “Oakland parents walk their school age children to bus stops and professionals go to work every day just like in other neighborhoods. People have invested in their homes and deserve the same law enforcement response people take for granted in other neighborhoods.”

CMU will use the bulk of it grant on enforcement activities and officer training. CMU police Sgt. Jason Hendershot said they will target the extra enforcement around weeks when large parties are more prevalent such as the beginning of the school year and during Carnival.

All of the funds will be targeted at residential neighborhoods, not at the bars and restaurants.

“We know where the problems are and through working with all of the partners we have we are able to target those efforts,” Witson said.

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