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Parties on the go in Bethlehem

Heffernan said the police rely on the community to help contain underage drinking.

"That's why we ask for the support of the residents and we encourage tips," Heffernan said. "If you see something, if you hear about a party or if you see lots of cars parked and kids heading into the woods with backpacks, call us. Don't wait until the next day."

Besides being illegal, and the obvious health and personal risks involved with underage drinking parties, Heffernan points out that there is also a safety risk for both police and teenagers that many overlook.

"It's hit or miss for the known spots we patrol, but when we do discover something, in most cases the kids run, which is another concern," Heffernan said. "It's dark, and running through the woods at night can be dangerous for my officers and the kids."

Especially if one is intoxicated, Heffernan said, adding that the situation is made even more dangerous because most of the party areas found by police are located near power lines and waterways.

Another problem police have is being able to make an arrest and charge a minor for underage drinking depending on where the party is taking place. In the Haswell Farm situation, the party spot is located on National Grid property.

Heffernan said the department has to contact the business or corporation that owns the land to ask whether they want to press charges or not.

"I can't speak for them, but a lot of times [corporations] don't. It kind of depends on what actually takes place," Heffernan said. "If there's damage to their property, they are more likely."

Private landowners, especially farmers in more rural parts of town, are more likely to press charges, Heffernan said.

"We have had calls from some of the local farmers," Heffernan said. The large tracts of wooded land and open fields owned by farmers make for attractive party locations that are out of the public's eye but still relatively close to home, he said.

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