Mercer County Busts 43 Underage Drinkers in 4 Days

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It's something every community faces, but in one county in our area, people are worried it's getting out of control.

Between December 31st, 2012 and January 4th, 2013, the Mercer County Sheriff's Department issued county ordinance citations for "unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor" to 43 minors during 2 separate instances.

The first took place on New Years Eve at a house on 105th Street in Joy, Illinois. Just before the clock hit midnight, police busted 30 minors for drinking.

The second happened just four days later when 13 more were caught during a house party on Knoxville Road in Sherrard, Illinois.

Nearby neighbors say it's nothing new, but in these small towns, it's certainly something to be concerned about.

"It's way out here, in the middle of nowhere, clear on the other side of the county, and so people just think they can get away with it," says Lanita Kindel-Sperger.

And they have.

According to "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among young people, even more so than tobacco and illicit drugs. But it's what happens after the drinking that scares Lanita and her other neighbors.

"My biggest concern is that somebody's going to get killed," says Lanita.

"There's been a lot of children or even younger adults that have been killed in car accidents," says Teresa Anderson, Lanita's neighbor.

So... knowing what the outcome could be, what is the solution? Lanita and Teresa admit there probably isn't a way to get rid of underage drinking, but there are things that could keep it from getting worse.

"I think there's been a lot of situations where kids have been caught drinking, and they're getting a slap on the hand," says Teresa. "I think if the penalties were a lot higher and a lot stricter, I think they'd think twice about it."

During both instances, minors were issued county ordinance citations. The consequence for receiving one of those is losing your driver's license for three months, but Mercer County Sheriff Thomas Thompson may change that to include some more penalties like counseling. Sheriff Thompson says he spoke with the state's attorney on Monday, January 7th, and they plan to sit down during the week to talk about what more they can do.

However, he says the way to curb this issue starts with the people directly involved.

"Parents' attitudes need to be that they don't condone it, but on the other hand when you're talking 18- and 19-year-olds, they're old enough to know what's right and what's wrong," says Sheriff Thompson.

He says Mercer County doesn't have the manpower to step up enforcements, so they're asking neighbors to keep their eyes and ears open. That's how they were able to make the two busts... one was an anonymous tip while the other was a noise complaint.