A group of teens trying to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking hosted a townhall-style meeting Thursday in Santa Rosa.
About 10 members of DIG Youth Leaders, or Drug Intervention Group, spoke about the need for all segments of the community to join forces to combat teen drinking.
"No single group or organization can do it alone. We need the entire community to work together to make a difference," said Deisy Vargas, a 16-year-old student at Elsie Allen High School.
The group is part of the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, whose health and training programs work to help low income members of the community succeed.
The crowd was small. About 20 members of the community and local leaders attended the presentation at the former Lewis School on Lomitas Avenue.
District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua praised the young people for taking personal responsibility for the problem and trying to be role models for their peers.
"Underage drinking can affect so many lives in so many ways," he said.
He described a recent incident when a teenager asking an adult to buy alcohol for him ended up getting into a fight and stabbing an adult. He was sent to prison.
"There is tragedy that can occur in so many ways when someone's judgment is impaired," Passalacqua said.
Other speakers included Officer David MacDonald of the Santa Rosa Police Department, who said that despite years of education and enforcement, teen drinking and driving remains a huge problem, he said.
Of all the fatal car crashes involving people 15 to 24 years old, 47 percent involved alcohol, he said. The fastest growing segment of DUI arrests is in the 18 to 20 years old category, he said.
Unlike years past, the department today takes a more cooperative approach to the problem, working with other groups to reach out to teens through innovative prevention programs, like Alive at 25.
Few if any teens who weren't part of the group attended the meeting, but Vince Harper, the group's coordinator, said the teens are active in their Santa Rosa schools, giving presentations about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
The teens are asking peers to sign Casey's Pledge, a promise not to drink and drive or get into a vehicle with someone has been drinking. The pledge was named after Casey Goodwin, an Exeter, Calif. 20-year-old who in 2003 was killed in a head-on collision with a teen who was driving drunk.
The teens are also urging parents to sign agreements that they will not let their children or other youth drink, said DIG member Cristal Silva.
"The affect of underage drinking can be felt by everyone. That makes underage drinking everyone's problem," she said.