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Party Patrol on the prowl in Valley

They don't want to get the party started.

In fact, they mostly want to break it up.

The annual King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) Party Patrol kicked off last Friday, but nobody was sipping on punch or mingling among the appetizers.

The Party Patrol consists of officers from several cities around the Eastside cruising neighborhoods for under-age drinkers reveling in the absence of parents - or the presence of those parents who look the other way.

The Party Patrol has been in effect since 1998, and last year they searched 160 locations and nabbed 162 partiers. A sizable chunk of those parties happened in North Bend, said Sgt. John McSwain of the KCSO in North Bend.

"Most of the time the party calls come from neighbors," McSwain said. "They see some ruckus down the street or hear loud music and call 911 and officers are dispatched."

Officers also patrol in "known party spots," like parks that attract kids in the summertime and other gathering spots where they have found juvenile drinking in the past.

"We check hundreds of locations. These are officers who are normally working these areas anyway. But probably a large majority of party busts come from neighbors down the street," said McSwain.

Every year before Party Patrol, undercover operatives are sent out to grocery stores to buy alcohol and clerks who sell it to them are cited. Undercover deputies are also out watching for kids coming out of stores with alcohol, or adults who buy for kids waiting outside.

"We get a couple of those guys every year," McSwain said.

Other rogues include parents letting their kids and other people's kids drink at parties they're hosting.

"That's a pretty rare occasion," said McSwain, "but it's not uncommon to find the parent who says, 'they're gonna drink anyway, so I might as well let them drink at home.'"

The vast majority of events busted by the Party Patrol involve kids who just wanted to have a few friends over while their parents awere out, but it got out of hand when 40-50 actually showed up.

According to the KCSO, there have been no fatal or serious injuries related to alcohol involving juveniles in King County during a Party Patrol operation over the last seven years. Juveniles under the age of 18 who consume alcohol will be arrested and brought to the north precinct in Kenmore and will only be released to a parent or guardian. Those over 18 but under 21 will either be cited or booked into the King County jail, depending on the circumstances. All minors in possession of alcohol will lose their drivers licenses. If an adult provides a location for kids to drink, they will be cited and booked into the King County jail, as well.

So far deputies and troopers from Duvall, Lake Forest Park, Woodinville, Sammamish, Kenmore, the Washington State Patrol, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue and the North Shore district have made commitments to participate this year. The Snoqualmie Police Department will not participate this year, but has a variety of other programs planned to deter minors from drinking lined up for the party season.

Citizens everywhere in King County are asked to call 911 if they suspect an underage drinking party in their neighborhood.

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