Social host ordinance in effect in Moorhead

A new ordinance in Moorhead has the city abuzz with interest; it has appeared in the local newspaper and been talked about on the radio, Sgt. Mike Detloff said. The Social Host ordinance, which went into effect Sept. 1, states that it is now a misdemeanor offense for hosts to allow underage drinkers onto the premises, whether it be at a home, dorm room or apartment. Moorhead police have acted already.

“Fines for procuring alcohol were in place before, but this is new—it helps in court,” Sgt. Mike Detloff said.

The Moorhead police found that many social hosts were coaching guests before a party, so if the police arrived, guests wouldn’t implicate their hosts, Detloff said. It became difficult for the police to deter the hosts of problem houses or apartments, but that is not the case anymore, with average fines for social hosting being around $185 per present host, Detloff said.

Lt. Tory Jacobson said the handful of people that have been fined (an exact number was not available) under the new Social Host ordinance since its instigation two months ago were solid applications of the fine, and it effectively sent the message and addressed the problems.

“What we want is to be problem-solving,” Jacobson said, “rather than responding to incidents.”

He said the wide coverage of this new ordinance on the news, on the radio, and in the newspaper is helping this problem-solving by getting people interested.

Concordia has had policies like the Social Host ordinance in place for years, said Paul Wraalstad, student programming and facilities director. Concordia’s policy for students hosting a party with alcohol and minors present has the minimum sanction being “Monetary fine of $500/resident, disciplinary probation for one semester and parental notification,” according to the student handbook. Because of that, it has surprised him how much attention this new ordinance has gotten, even on Concordia’s campus.

“Students are talking about it, worried about it, and aware of it,” Wraalstad said, “and from an alcohol prevention standpoint, it’s been a very good thing.”

Wraalstad also said he hasn’t seen any real spikes or drop-offs in campus-related drinking so far this year.

Something that has changed on campus, however, is the attendance for the Campus Entertainment Commission’s activities. Anna Johnson, lead commissioner of CEC, said the numbers this year are really good, and they’re up from previous years. With an attendance average of over 300 students per event, this year’s numbers are, so far, higher than any in the past five years.

“Part of the reason we’re in place is to give opportunities for students instead of drinking,” Johnson said. Yet she doesn’t believe the Social Host ordinance is the reason for increased attendance.

With alternative options in place, such as CEC events, for Concordia students, and the looming threat of a social host fine, Wraalstad said the ordinance gives students a reason to make better choices. He said it should reduce the number of people willing to take the risk of hosting or providing to minors.

“It gives people who are having people over a little more weight or reason to check who’s coming,” Wraalstad said, “without having to seem like the bad guy.”

He said that now it will be easier to keep parties smaller and more in-control.

That seems to be the goal of the Moorhead Police, too. Detloff said that this fine is not just a ploy to increase revenue, but an attempt to put an end to the assaults, vandalism, and other negative consequences that go hand-in-hand with large parties.

“Our goal isn’t to write a thousand tickets, it’s not to give everyone a ticket,” Detloff said. “We want people to take responsibility for their own actions.”

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