During the 2013 Fall Annual Town Meeting, Walpole Town Meeting Representatives voted to accept an amendment to the official Code of the Town of Walpole by adding Section 468, entitled "Social Host Responsibility" which was sponsored by The Walpole Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Awareness. Section 468, has now attained the endorsement of the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, with the exception of the recoupment of police expenses at the scene of an underage drinking event. The purpose of this new by-law is to create improved safeguards for our citizens; especially our adolescent citizens, from the issues of underage alcohol consumption and/or illicit drug use and the potential consequences that may follow.
The prohibitive activity emphasized in the by-law states; any person who owns, rents or otherwise controls any premises shall be responsible when an Open House Party (as defined in the by-law) takes place at said Premises where the person knows, or has reason to know that an Alcoholic Beverage or Drug is being unlawfully possessed, served to or consumed by Persons under the age of twenty-one (21) at these gatherings at said Premises.
The question regarding this by-law is why do we need another social host regulation, when Massachusetts already has Social Host Liability Laws? The short answer is to provide awareness, education and less punitive measures to achieve compliance with a problem that is engrained in social norms. In Massachusetts we currently identify two types of Social Host Liability.
The first version is civil, and basically means that if a "host" which is usually the homeowner, provides alcohol, or the place to consume it for people less than 21 years of age, on their property; and as a result, property damage, injury or death occurs, the homeowner may be civilly liable and be sued for subsequent damages. In short, if a host allows an underage person to drink alcohol at their home, they may be held liable should a devastating event occur as a result.
The second version of the Social Host Liability is within the criminal statute covered under Massachusetts General Law Ch. 138, Sec. 34, which is a criminal charge filed in the district court. MGL 138/34 forbids a person to sell, deliver, or furnish alcoholic beverages to a person less than 21 years of age. For the purposes of section 34, furnish means knowingly or intentionally, supplied, gave, provided for, or allowed an underage person to consume alcohol on the premises or property controlled by the person in charge. In other words, if a person knowingly allows an underage person to consume alcohol on their property they may be culpable of the crime of procuring liquor to person(s) less than 21 years of age.
The problem with the statewide social host law is that in order for the civil liability issue to trigger, the damage must already be done, usually the result of a serious incident perhaps resulting in fatal consequences. From a risk management perspective, the civil liability is reactive to a past situation, and does not allow for prevention, which is vital to diminish this potential situation.
In order for the criminal statute to trigger, the police must establish probable cause that the crime was committed and then execute the appropriate action. To establish a violation of the criminal law, the police must satisfy the elements of the statute, which forbids a person to sell, deliver, or furnish alcoholic beverages to a person less than 21 years of age. As previously stated, furnish means knowingly or intentionally, supplied, gave, provided for, or allowed an underage person to consume alcohol on the premises or property controlled by the person in charge. This scenario may consider the fact that a parent or guardian may be in charge and/or it may be an underage person hosting a party with no adult supervision present. The punishment for a violation of 138/34 is not more than one year in the house of correction, and/or a fine of not more than $2,000.
Experience has demonstrated that the police are hesitant to charge homeowners with violating this law because the furnishing aspect of the statute is difficult to verify. For example, police are cognizant that a parent(s) may allow their underage child to have friends at their home and alcohol is covertly introduced from an outside source without their knowledge. In some cases, the parents may not even be home, perhaps out to dinner, at a movie or away for a weekend. In contrast, parents or guardians should be aware when there are multitudes of underage persons present and kids are bringing backpacks, red cups, staying isolated from adults, and playing games consistent with alcohol consumption. This would demonstrate knowledge of the activity as well as allowing it to occur.
To further answer the question as to why we need another social host regulation, when Massachusetts already has Social Host Liability Laws? The civil law is reactive and does not educate or prevent the activity from occurring. The criminal law is cumbersome, difficult to substantiate, and allows for punitive measures based on a variety of circumstances. The Walpole by-law has a lesser burden of proof; however it also has lesser punitive measures, which allow for education, awareness, and focus on the social norms associated with underage alcohol consumption.
The by-law standard is that the homeowner or host "knows, or has reason to know" that underage drinking activity is occurring on the premises; possessed, served or consumed. If this element of the by-law is violated they are automatically issued a warning of the law for the first offense, and only if the activity occurs again within a 12 month period, will they be cited for a second offense of $150 and any subsequent offense of $300. There is no court involvement unless there is an appeal. This by-law provides the police with the opportunity to seek alternative responses to underage drinking events that merit such a response, while providing community consciousness to the overall problem, with the goal of enhancing the safety of our most influential and susceptible citizens; our adolescent community. As this by-law matures, officers will be cognizant of all of the circumstances and all of the options available in order to make informed decisions in regards to events involving underage drinking and/or drug use. With the support of the community we can make a positive impact and hopefully transform societal norms associated with underage drinking. To see Section 468, please CLICK HERE.
The Walpole Police Department has partnered with GetCrashReports.com to offer citizens a quick and easy way to get copies of their motor vehicle crash reports. Operators involved in an accident in Walpole, where a Walpole Police Officer responded, will receive a card with the incident number of the accident. Using that number, and following the directions on the card, you will be able to obtain your report within 72 hours, via the internet.
Of course, if you are not that computer savvy, you can still pick up copies of your report the previous way, by filling out and submitting the request form found on the Forms Page.
This service is quicker, and easier for operators, while being more efficient and cost effective for the department. In addition, the department will receive all of the benefits of moving to a digital format for filing reports, including getting access to detailed accident data and diagrams.
Last month, a Citizen Survey was sent out to half of Walpole's residents. Residents were asked to watch for the survey being mailed out with the town census. Since then, we have received more than 800 surveys back, which is fantastic.
This month, the second round of surveys are being mailed out to the other half of town. Again, we are asking residents to keep an eye open for the surveys that will arrive inside the town census. If you are one of the people who received your survey last month, and filled it out, thank you. If you didn't have a chance to send the survey in, there is still time for you to fill it out.
While the results of the survey will take time to analyze, we have received many comments from residents. Many of the comments are positive (I think the men and women of the PD do a good job), some of the comments are less positive (I don't see a police presence in neighborhoods, don't just come when needed). Many of the comments are constructive (need traffic enforcement downtown), but ALL of the comments are valued and respected by the department.
Please see below for a description of the Citizen Survey Program, and once again, watch the mail for your town census.
The first Rape Aggression Defense class of 2014 has just been announced. This popular program is taught entirely by members of the Walpole Police Department, and includes both classroom instruction, and hands-on practical exercises. You can read all about the class, and the new dates on the RAD page. Just click HERE.
On June 15, 2013, at approximately 8:40pm a lone gunman entered Dunkin Donuts located at 506 High Plain St. in Walpole.
The suspect jumped the counter before going to the drive thru cash register. He then punched in an order opening the draw. While there he encountered a victim employee and pointed the gun at him and stated he was sorry. The suspect then fled out the rear door in an unknown direction.
The suspect is described as a black male, "caramel color skin", 5'9", thin, 150lbs, wearing an oversized black hooded sweatshirt with no words or markings, black ski mask covering the lower portion of his face, black gloves, blue or gray jeans, black sneakers and carrying a black semi-automatic handgun in his right hand.
Isaiah Murphy, 23 (shown below), was arrested this week in connection with a string of armed robberies at Dunkin' Donuts shops. Murphy, a former employee, was arraigned on Wednesday, charged with two (2) of the robberies in Canton, and held on $200,000 bail.
As a result of an ongoing investigation, the Walpole Police Detective Division will be seeking a warrant for Murphy in connection with a similar robbery at the High Plain St. Dunkin' Donuts in June.