To this point, officers arriving on the scene of an underage drinking party in New Canaan generally gather information about violations—someone is hosting the party and providing alcohol, or somebody is in possession of alcohol—and issue a few infraction summonses or make a few arrests.
The balance of kids at the party who have been drinking will leave the scene with no accountability.
Under a new initiative that New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski is designing—with support and feedback from the state’s attorney of the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District—those kids’ names are recorded for possible participation in a “diversionary program.”
“The next step is I am writing to the parents saying, ‘Your child was at this party consuming alcohol, we can charge him or her with X,Y or Z—which is a fine and license suspension and has potential consequences on your insurance—or you can attend this diversionary program,’ ” Krolikowski said Wednesday during the regular monthly meeting of the Police Commission, held at NCPD headquarters.
To be taught by volunteering psychiatrists trained in addition, the program would be attended by parents and children, and run through two 2-hour sessions—likely on a Saturday, the chief said—with a focus on drug and alcohol education.
Those in charge of the program would “explain the consequences of early abuse of alcohol and drugs, and what that can lead to,” Krolikowski said.
He noted that alcohol can contribute to addiction and that officials see a progression from alcohol to marijuana and then prescription and other drugs, including heroin, which has taken the lives of several young New Canaanites.
“We have seen kids in town, educated here, become addicted, then leave town and in the last 18 months or two years, there have been four or five or six that have overdosed and died, so that is our goal is to prevent some of that from happening,” Krolikowski said.
Following officers’ response to two major underage drinking parties in recent weeks, the chief said he has six to ten candidates for a pilot program. It would only apply to specific offenses and would be a one-shot deal, so that anyone who violates after the program would serve out criminal consequences as usual, per state laws.
“The idea is to bring a dialogue to it and educate parents and kids, because we cannot assume that parents know and or are providing information to their kids all the time about what can happen,” the chief said.
Police Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini called it a “great initiative” and urged Krolikowski to test the program with a small sample population prior to rolling it out across-the-board.
The chief said he’s working with healthcare professionals as well as the state’s attorney to create the curriculum and will go through initial versions of the program in order to figure out details such as ideal number of participants in a given session.
A coalition that includes Krolikowski, school officials, town leaders and human services representatives from both the public and private nonprofit sectors has taken up the goal of eliminating substance abuse in town, with a focus on New Canaan youth. An early definitive goal of the group is to ensure that New Canaan schools are drug-free, and to that end police are requesting permission to conduct unannounced inspections of New Canaan High School with the department’s K-9 dog.