Alton aims to crack down on underage drinking

Alton became the latest city to crackdown on underage drinking after the city commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that would hold adults accountable if underage drinking occurs on their property.

Called a “civil social host ordinance,” the law allows police officers to fine adults who are “hosts” of underage drinking, according to a news release issued by the Alton police department.

Such an ordinance is already on the books in the city of Palmview which was the first Rio Grande Valley city to adopt one in 2017.

The hosts, or the people responsible for the gathering, are defined as the people who own, rent, leases or consents to the use of the premises where the gathering occurs.

It can also include the person who controls the premises and/or organized the gathering.

If the person who organized the event is a juvenile, then the juvenile and the parents or guardians who knowingly allowed the gathering will be liable.

A first violation of the ordinance will be penalized with a $500 fine. A second violation comes with a $750 fine while a third or subsequent violations will be fined $1,000.

The push to adopt such ordinances has been led by the Pharr-based Uniting Neighbors in Drug Abuse Defense, or UNIDAD, Coalition.

“We can change the norm in our community and make it a better place for our youth,” Melissa Alviar, UNIDAD Coalition Coordinator, stated in the news release. “It is in the hands of all community members to make a difference.”

The UNIDAD Coalition worked with Texans Standing Tall, a non-profit group based in Austin, to bring the issue to the attention of the Alton city council.

“It was a good thing to do that because there’s a lot of stuff going on,” Alton Mayor Salvador Vela said of passing the ordinance. “And some parents are not responsible, that’s the problem.”

Vela said he didn’t think underage drinking was a problem in Alton but was preparation for the future.

“Every will be normal,” he said, adding that he had not been notified of any big issues with underage drinking in the city.

Still, all the commissioners supported passing the measure, Vela said.

“I think it was (preaching) to the choir,” he said.

The ordinance goes into immediate effect.