Police Chief: First-Ever ‘Diversionary Program’ for Underage Drinking Kids, Parents Went ‘Very Well’

New Canaan’s first ever “diversionary program” for underage drinkers—in which those found at a party with alcohol may attend an education session with their parents in lieu of facing criminal charges—went “very well,” Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said Wednesday.

A group of local parents and their kids attended a 3-hour session last week in which the chief himself and an addiction psychiatrist “went through everything from alcohol use effects and binge drinking, how it affects potential substance abuse issues in the future,” Kroliowski told members of the Police Commission at their regular meeting.

“We showed a film on binge drinking that resulted in death, and it was pretty compelling,” the chief said at the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. “A lot of people, I think, were struck by that and hopefully it’s going to change the behavior and encourage people not to do some of the things we have been seeing in the past several months.”

Krolikowski first proposed the diversionary program about 18 months ago, garnering support from the state’s attorney and commissioners among other key officials.

Parents and teens both face serious criminal consequences for providing alcohol to minors or, in the case of those underage, consuming it.

The first group of participants for the diversionary program followed New Canaan High School students identified at a drinking party at which a teen was seriously hurt, police have said. School officials, who imposed set rules for student-athletes caught drinking alcohol illegally, said the district worked closely with police during the investigation.

Commissioners at the meeting asked Krolikowski whether the program was an open invitation or just for youths who had been identified (the latter), when they were identified at a drinking party (yes, and that will be the case in the future) and whether the program involves a single session or a series of them.

Krolikowski said a second segment had been planned for the diversionary program but the individual who would oversee it was not available.

“It may be only necessary to do one program, depending on the nature of the group,” Krolikowski said.

“Originally we had planned to do two sessions but I think in one session we accomplished everything that we needed to,” he said.

The chief added: “We had some positive feedback from students’ parents so that’s a good thing.”

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