OOB police, residents target post-prom drinking

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OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine (AP) – Police in this seaside resort community have teamed up with a group of residents to try to head off what some say has been a post-prom tradition: the rental of hotel by teenagers for a night of underage drinking.

Police and the residents group recently sent letters urging 80 hotel and motel owners in southern Maine to be careful not to host underage parties.

Deputy Police Chief Keith Babin says the letters are meant to insure that Old Orchard doesn’t regain its reputation as a magnet for underage drinking after the prom.

“Years ago this was the place to come,” Babin said. “Next thing you know, there’d be 50 kids in a hotel room.”

While Babin said he couldn’t recall the last time police were called to a hotel room where students were drinking, one 2005 graduate of Old Orchard High School said there was no shortage of after-prom hotel parties last season.

“I think I went to two or three of them,” said Tom Smith, now a freshman at the University of Southern Maine. Smith attended Lake Region High School before Old Orchard and said he knew Lake Region students who came to Old Orchard Beach hotels for their after-prom parties.

Police in other communities endorse the idea of working with lodging owners to address the problem. Most hotels and motels won’t rent a room to anyone under 21 or lacking photo identification, though some set the minimum age at 18.

Several Old Orchard Beach motel owners said they monitor the prom schedules of nearby schools and screen customers closely during these times.

“They try doing that every year,” said Craig Ready, manager of the Old Colonial Motel. “I know all the dates the schools are having proms.”

Don Saucier, owner of the Ocean Walk Hotel, draws on his experience to detect underage callers looking for post-prom reservations. Typically, he said, such callers want to know how many people are allowed in a room, and they often don’t have credit cards.

The letter to hotel and motel owners was written by the Old Orchard Beach Communities for Children’s Underage Drinking Task Force. It is one of 23 such community coalitions that were established through the state Office of Substance Abuse and supported with federal funding.

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