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Adults no help to teenage drinkers

What would you do?

A 16-year-old comes up to you and asks for a little help. He and his friends are bored and just want to have a little fun that night.

He asks you to buy booze.

Got a problem with that?

The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership says you should, but not everyone does. And that’s why the group recruited three teenagers to ask adults that same question Thursday night outside Nichols Package Store on Wahconah Street.

Michelle Messana, 17, of Lenox High School, and Nicole Akramoff, 15, and Max Pastore, 17, both of St. Joseph’s High School, took turns asking approaching customers this question: “Excuse me, I’m not old enough to buy anything here. If I gave you money, would you mind buying a six-pack for me?”

Karen Cole, Berkshire United Way PPP coordinator, said most of the few dozen adults who were asked declined to help. Some of them reprimanded the youths, and a few said they would help the teens out, “If there weren’t so many cars around.”

Only one man agreed to help.

The teens eventually told the people they were conducting a survey for the PPP and handed the adults a card with information listing the penalties for providing alcohol to minors, which include arrest, fines up to $2,000 and imprisonment up to six months.

Cole, PPP member Jackie Elliot and an undercover Pittsfield police officer waited in a car in the parking lot to make sure everything went smoothly.

Cole said the survey was part of a partnership with MADD Massachusetts, which has conducted these surveys in other parts of the state.

“We did this as a chance to educate the public on the laws,” Cole said. “I think it should make a lot of people think twice, which should ultimately save lives.”

The teens selected to help out are from the district attorney’s youth advisory board.

Messana, a junior, said she was nervous at first when she approached the adults.

“But it was definitely an interesting learning experience,” she said. “Some of the people got really mad, but then their attitudes changed when we told them this was just a survey.

“Alcohol can really screw up young kid’s lives,” she said.” They make bad decisions, and if they get behind the wheel, it can be horrible.”

The PPP is a group of residents, parents and community leaders that are targeting substance abuse among youths and hoping to educate the population on the negative effects of alcohol and drugs.

Cole said similar surveys will be conducted in the future. In December, members of the PPP and 15 area high school students visited liquor stores to attach stickers on drinks that read: “Hey you, did you know it’s illegal to sell alcohol to minors?”

A few months before that they sent 21-year-olds to 70 bars, restaurants and package stores in Pittsfield to see if they were carded. Cole said 87 percent of the establishments asked for ID.

Nichols owner Greg Babich supports the work of the PPP and gave the OK for the teens to conduct Thursday’s survey outside his store.

“We take this very seriously here,” he said. “We’re always on the lookout for suspicious buying. I have four teenage daughters, so it’s something I’m sensitive to.”

source: Berkshire Eagle

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