Conviction of Pitt Co. parents highlights issue of underage drinking in the East

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Alcohol Law Enforcement says a culture of underage drinking is becoming a problem in Eastern North Carolina. This issue was recently highlighted by the conviction of two parents, Brian and Camille Johnson, who investigators say provided alcohol for between 50 and 75 high school students at an August 2015 party.

“One of the big things that we’ve tried to combat is that perception that alcohol and underage drinking is a right of passage,” says Russell King with ALE.

ALE is working to educate minors of the dangers they face but say parents have to help in the process.

“Instead of trying to keep the kids at home drinking, teach them ahead of time that it’s illegal to drink before you’re 21,” says King. “It’s harmful to their bodies before you’re 21 years old and let that be the guideline.”

In Pitt County, The District Attorney’s Office says cases like this are  common but don’t always result in convictions.

“There are a lot of charges with parents involved but a lot of times it’s hard to prosecute,” says Pitt County Assistant District Attorney Nick Southwell. “In this case, law enforcement, The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, the ALE and the ABC agents all worked together.”

Those efforts translate into community service and hefty fines for two parents. This, only after multiple parties, more than ten minors charged with alcohol-related offenses and one child that went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Agents recommend parents take the situation seriously.

“What I would recommend to parents that are even considering that is that it’s illegal no matter where it is,” says King.

Governor Pat McCrory is taking the situation very seriously and is refocusing efforts of ALE on education. Greenville is one of the key cities in this new effort for the state.

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