By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Classes don’t start until Monday, but the Mankato Department of Public Safety started putting a $4,000 alcohol enforcement and education grant to use early Friday morning.
Three underage drinking parties at Minnesota State University area apartment complexes were broken up between about 12 a.m. and about 1:20 a.m. Friday. There were 28 citations handed out for underage drinking, said Cmdr. Jeremy Clifton.
As they do every year, Mankato police officers will be increasing patrols as the college school year starts. The goal is to let young people who are moving to Mankato know right away that underage drinking laws will be enforced.
“As always, we’ll be putting focused efforts on areas we’ve seen in the past so we don’t have safety issues, so we don’t have property damage issues,” Clifton said. “Those things go hand-in-hand with underage drinking.”
This year a $4,000 grant from the Invitation Health Institute of Minnesota, formerly the Minnesota Institute of Public Health, will help fund the extra enforcement. The extra patrols began Monday and will extend through additional weekends during the next few months.
Underage drinkers as well as those who provide alcohol to them are being targeted. Officers will also focus on open container, disruptive intoxication and social host violations.
Four other Minnesota police departments received similar grants, said Tanya Prahl, Invitation Health Institute senior communications coordinator. It’s one of many avenues the organization uses to educate the public about the health concerns related to alcohol and other drugs.
“It’s important that we get out and target these areas at times such as move-in, back-to-school and times of the year when we see a lot of underage drinking,” Prahl said. “We chose Mankato because of their focus on conducting foot and vehicle patrols in areas near Minnesota State and their follow up with provider investigations.”
The overtime funded by the grant helps because busting underage drinking parties can be time consuming, Clifton said. Everyone at the party has to be identified and officers have to make sure that those who have had too much to drink have someone with them and a safe place to go.
“The grant helps, definitely, to enable us to be able to do that job,” he said.