Las Vegas police have a special unit targeting drunken parties where teens flock together by the dozens -- or sometimes the hundreds.
The Metropolitan Police Department's party crashing patrol has responded to more than 180 party-related calls throughout the valley since becoming active in March. Police formed the patrol after two 17-year-old girls were shot and killed at separate parties earlier this year.
When the patrol began five months ago, police were
busting lots of underage drinkers. They've made dozens of arrests and written even more citations for underage drinking and contributing to the delinquency of minors, among other offenses. But the patrol isn't finding as many parties to crash these days.
It isn't so much that kids are drinking less, police said. It's that they're becoming smarter.
"Am I telling the cops we're stopping juvenile drinking? No," said Lt. Ted Snodgrass. "What's the ultimate prize?
"Let's not get hung up on process, you know. Let's get hung up on what the results are. The results are no shootings and no violence, but more importantly, no one getting killed."
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control report, 38.6 percent of high school students in Nevada use alcohol -- 5.9 percent of students surveyed in Clark County admitted to drinking and driving. Nationwide, about one in four students say they participated in binge drinking, which is considered five or more drinks.
According to Bolden Area Command police logs, the number of calls has fallen steadily since March from 75 in the first month of the patrol to five party-related calls in the first three weeks of July.
Most of the calls are about drunken teens or gang parties with drugs.
Police said the decrease in calls is a combination of teens policing their own parties and their desire to go unnoticed by authorities. The partiers have started using intricate systems to try to throw off police.
Why all of the smoke and mirrors?
Because tossing back a few brews without getting into trouble is difficult when the uninvited party crashing patrol is knocking at the door with ticket books in hand.
One party system goes like this: Text message this phone number.
Go to this address.
Text a second phone number handed out by someone at the first address.
Get another address.
The party is probably at that location. If police are around, go to this address instead, and the party will be there.
"They know exactly why we're there, and they know all about us," Sgt. Brian Briggs said. "That's why they try to hide the parties so much now."
Police get information about large parties from online social networking sites, posted flyers, neighbors who complain, angry stragglers who have been kicked out of parties and snitches.
Police said the greatest impact of the party crashing patrol can be measured by the number of shootings at teen parties since the program went into effect five months ago.
"We've not had a shooting valleywide since we've started doing this," Briggs said. "There have been no shootings at a party since March."
Early Thursday morning three gang members were wounded in a shootout with rival gang members during a party in North Las Vegas. Police noted that case couldn't have been prevented by Las Vegas police's party crashing patrol responsibilities because it was outside their jurisdiction and because of the type of party.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter and photographer rode along with Las Vegas police during an overnight shift earlier this month when Las Vegas police handled only one party-related call involving underage drinkers. Police welcomed the slow night, which they said is a good indication of the effect the patrol is having.
The one call came around 11 p.m. from neighbors complaining about noise from a party. When police arrived a few minutes later, four punk rock bands rolled large amplifiers and other music equipment back to their vans.
Out of the 50 to 70 teenagers who filed out of the house near Boulder Station, only a handful had been drinking. A few crumpled beer cans were near the sidewalk. Sgt. Geordinno Bagaporo said his officers wrote up the underage drinkers and cited the homeowner for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Taylor Sheridan sat on the curb in front of the home looking dejected after the party had broken up. The 19-year-old said she had not been drinking but was disappointed that police showed up.
"Usually, it's ... ' Who's going to jail?' But they were pretty fair," Sheridan said. "They were really nice about everything. It wasn't aggressive or disrespectful in any way. They were like, 'No one's going to jail. Just be up front and honest, and go home.'"
Snodgrass said the party crashing patrol is expected to last "for a while."
Contact Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.