HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- An alternative sentencing program for alcohol-related offenses by underage youth has entered its second year in Hoosick Falls, but the pilot program has yet to garner any takers.
Outside the village
A step-up in local police activity may have deterred underage alcohol consumption inside the village -- but not necessarily outside the village’s immediate jurisdiction.
"Maybe there’s been no cases because nobody wants to run the risk," said Harold McClellan, an officer with the Hoosick Falls Police Department and board member of the local nonprofit supporting the alternative sentencing initiative.
McClellan said there was "significant evidence" that parties where alcohol was served to minors had shifted to outside the village. As a deterrent, "I don’t know how effective that is," he said. The alternative sentencing program may expand townwide in response.
Modeled after Vermont’s Teen Alcohol Safety Program, alternative sentencing is offered to 16- to 20-year-olds arrested for possession or consumption of alcohol inside Hoosick Falls.
Instead of the case entering the court system, the program for first-time offenders attaches a fine and includes alcohol education and community service components. Upon successful completion, the juvenile’s arrest is expunged from their record.
An effort funded by the Hoosick Area Youth Center and Community Coalition’s Drug Free Communities Support Grant, the diversion program launched in June 2011 with cooperation between HAYC3, village officials and police, village and town Justice Tom Restino, and the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s office.
The program is part of HAYC3’s "police partnership," which has also funded bicycle and foot patrols, and recently sexual assault response training for officers.
McClellan said the program was unique in New York because of cooperation with the district attorney, "to put teeth into the diversion program" by allowing the village to suspend driving privileges for youth who agree to participate but don’t successfully complete the program.
To date, there have been no enrollees. "There have been a few arrests for alcohol offenses ... (but) in each case, for one reason or another, they weren’t eligible," said McClellan, because of mitigating circumstances including prior arrests or additional charges. He said in the months ahead, organizers will explore the possibility of expanding the program.
"There’s no reason to do away with (what’s) in place. We have all the tools here."
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