How To Get Started

Finding a Leader
Do you want to be the convener or the leader?

Getting started begins with finding someone who will step up to the plate and get things moving. That person is the convener, the one who gets a core group together or calls the first

Respect all
stakeholders’ positions
and roles.

meeting. The convener may or may not become the eventual leader, who takes charge and runs the show. As chief you may be more comfortable asking key people in the community to come together to hear about the juvenile DUI problem and your appeal to address it. Perhaps the mayor, the chief prosecutor, or a prominent business leader would be the best person to manage a new youth initiative and keep everyone cooperating. Maybe you would rather run the show. The decision should be based on your local community, its politics, and a realistic assessment of who can best get each job done.

Convening a Community Policy Group

The convener must first form a community-based group, for grassroots initiatives and citizen input are crucial ingredients for success. The leader of the group can then be selected. The title doesn’t matter, as long as the chosen leader is someone with authority and respect in the community, as well as the influence and ability to get things started. An energetic and motivated leader will inspire others in the community to play a role, or increase their current role, in combating juvenile DUI.

Expect turnover.
Plan for it.

The members of the policy group must be committed individuals and, if possible, passionate about reducing juvenile DUI. Committed people will help ensure that the group will not stop when difficulties arise. The group should also be structured so that if there is turnover, group positions can be replaced with minimal disruption. The driving force should be the committee, no matter how its representation changes.

The group should include at least the following:

  • Local and state police
  • Prosecutors
  • Criminal and juvenile court judges
  • Probation officers
  • Intake and detention personnel
  • Representatives of local government leadership (such as the mayor, city council, or county executive)
  • Education and treatment providers
  • School officials
  • Local business leaders
  • Public interest groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)
  • Media representatives
  • Alcohol beverage control officials
  • Military representatives
  • Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and other parents’ groups
  • Students
  • Victims’ groups
  • Local professionals, including the medical community

The group may face the problem of dealing with unco-operative members or convincing key people to join. Representatives of education, the media, and victims’ groups may be able to persuade others to join in.

Once the policy group is established and the leader is selected, the group should develop formal or informal operating agreements with members, defining their positions and expected contributions. A mission statement could also be included.

Set long- and short-term
goals with achievements
all can share.

The core group must develop realistic, specific numerical targets and time frames. Typical targets would be the number of DUI crashes, arrests, prosecutions, or convictions. (These numerical goals or targets are also helpful when it comes time to evaluate the program.) Such targets also serve as milestones that help a community gauge, for example, how much it has spent per life saved. Communities can usually show big returns on their investment.

A mix of goals—such as process goals (cooperation and communication, for example) and program impact goals—may also help. The articulation of clear goals helps in orienting new members, eliminating the need to repeat the process with each replacement.

Building Community Support

Once the vision is stated, the group begins its essential task of reaching out to work with other members of the community. The first task the policy group should undertake is to raise awareness of the problem through

Establish a rapport
with the media in the
beginning, and give
the media follow-up
feedback on your
efforts as they

a public education and media campaign. There must be consensus in the community that a problem exists, followed by discussion of the problem and the formation of consensus on the need for more enforcement. Police ride-alongs for the policy group and media can be quite effective. Putting the effects of DUI in dollar terms will help convince citizens that both lives and money can be saved through enhanced DUI enforcement. If a high-profile DUI crash has occurred recently, that crisis can also help motivate individuals to combat the problem.

There are several proactive ways the policy group can raise awareness of the problem. One is to enlist the involvement of outside groups, such as MADD. MADD members are bound together by their shared tragedy and are passionate about the issue. A second method the core group must undertake to build consensus is to create partnerships within the community.

The five demonstration sites point to partnerships as a key to success. In Albany County, the Bethlehem Community Partnership began when over 40 community members joined together to address the problem of youth alcohol and drug use. The members signed a compact (COMPACT also stands for Community Partnerships in Albany County), spelling out their vision and goals for the community. The partnership continues to meet and work on projects that further the goals set out in the compact. Approximately 1,000 people are now involved in six community partnerships in Albany County, and their achievements are enhanced by excellent coverage in local newspapers.

One information-gathering technique that is helpful in building public support for attacking the problem is a survey of teen alcohol use. Albany used such a survey with great success: “When we released the results, that’s what generated an outcry.” Local colleges can design and conduct surveys via phone or in schools. Questions can be taken from the NIDA “Monitoring the Future” annual survey of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students.

Building Criminal Justice System Support

If you decide to take on the role of convening a core group, there is simply no better way to gain the attention and, hopefully, the support of key members of the criminal justice system than meeting each one face to face. Police chiefs in the demonstration sites emphasized that sitting down with the chief prosecutor, chief judge, or local judges was critical to their success. Do not delegate these key initial meetings.

What if the judges, prosecutors, or other key people aren’t interested?
Don’t stop; use your allies. The help that MADD or the media can offer in this situation has already been mentioned. However, there are some important allies in other agencies that can help even if youth DUI cases are not getting the proper attention and response from other elements of the criminal justice system. Various regulatory agencies, for example, can be very helpful in dealing with alcohol servers and sellers who are illegally selling to underage youths. Often these agencies’ enforcement arms are even more understaffed than the police and appreciate help in identifying violators. And these agencies have administrative sanctions that can be applied quickly. These initiatives are also important because a department can undertake them at no cost, with no new police resources required.

The Albany Police Department routinely works with health, fire, the liquor commission, and even the lottery commission to get the attention of problem bars, clubs, and stores that persistently sell alcohol to underage youths. As the assistant chief commented, “We take the State Liquor Commission agent along on sting operations . . . and if the establishment has a lottery machine, we let the Lottery Commission know that [the bar] was charged with selling to a minor. That’s a violation of their contract. These agencies can pull a permit the next day if there is cause.”

Can these agencies play a role in your youth DUI initiative?

  • State tax or alcohol beverage control department
  • State, county, or city health department
  • Immigration department
  • Insurance commission
  • Natural resources or fish and game commission
  • Fire marshal or fire department
  • Lottery commission

It can also be worthwhile to bring insurance companies on board. An insurance agent in Astoria proposed a “Stop & Shop” program that would require a youth charged with DUI to stop drinking and driving or be forced to find a new insurance company. If the juvenile commits a second offense, police officers would notify the juvenile’s insurance agent, and the policy, which is often a parent’s or guardian’s policy as well, would be canceled.

Training for police officers is a key element of this program. Starting a comprehensive juvenile DUI enforcement program in your department may require a redefinition of traditional law enforcement roles to incorporate nontraditional means of combating juvenile DUI, such as public awareness, education, and working with outside agencies. The department may need to develop training materials that consider the relationships among the various components of the local justice system and the community organizations that work with them. Your department may also need additional training in strategic and tactical planning or in implementing specific enforcement programs. The type of training undertaken will depend on current enforcement efforts, local needs, and the ever-present reality of limited resources. More information on training can be found in the companion document, Part III: Support Tools for Building Programs That Work.

In addition, it’s important to coordinate the DUI enforcement program with neighboring jurisdictions. Otherwise, when enforcement efforts intensify, the problem will simply move right next door, and real improvements won’t be seen. Underage violators are well aware of where to go to buy alcohol illegally. Word travels fast regarding which communities have tight, consistent enforcement procedures and which do not.

Getting Program Support
With all these generals . . . where are the troops?

While obtaining the backing and support of a public-private community advisory group is essential, getting the day-to-day administrative and operational staff support needed is also critical. Written memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between agencies should also address staff support needs. But what minimum support is really needed to get this program going and keep it going day to day?

The consensus from the demonstration sites and forum experts is that, at a minimum, one half-time position for a program coordinator or manager is needed. Their combined experience says that expecting a lieutenant or civilian agency staffer to assume the coordinator position in addition to his or her existing full-time job is a prescription for failure. A half- or full-time coordinator should have enough time to deal with the many responsibilities of coordination, public relations, resource management, and other managerial duties.

The police agencies involved in the juvenile DUI enforcement demonstration are willing and eager to share their experience with colleagues in other jurisdictions. A contact point for each department can be found in Part III: Support Tools for Building Programs That Work.