AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Going to college can be the first taste of freedom for some teens who are ready to test their boundaries.
Underage drinking is usually a part of the experience, but one that officials say is not worth the risk.
"We know that it's basically a gateway drug into other illicit activities," explains Captain Will Mathews of the Auburn Police Division.
In order to crack down on the amount of underage drinkers in the City of Auburn, authorities have teamed up with the Prevention Services Department of East Alabama Mental Health to monitor the busy bar nights downtown.
"We'll have increased patrols on foot and vehicle patrols looking for underage drinkers and East Alabama Mental Health will also have some people out their handing out literature," says Mathews.
Authorities could perform random bar checks or stop people on the street who look under the influence.
The Auburn Police Division averages about 275 alcohol related arrests each year for people under the age of 21.
"You're looking at generally an eight to 12 hour stay in jail, the potential of a suspended license and fines and ultimately a criminal record," explains Mathews.
Teens who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholic than those that wait until they are 21.
The brains of teens continue to grow and fine-tune themselves up to about 20 years of age and parts of the brain of a teen drinker can be up to 10 percent smaller than those of non-drinkers, according to the American Medical Association.
"EAMH has an interest in teaching the public the healthy way to grow and the use of alcohol by minors is a problem that they see needs to be combated," explains Mathews.
The events are being sponsored by EAMH through grant funds provided by the Alabama Department of Mental Health.