Tempe Police crack down on underage drinking after student's death

(Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Kondrath) (Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Kondrath)

Following the death of nonprofit leadership and management freshman Naomi McClendon, around 40 local law enforcement officials met Friday to begin a weekend of high enforcement targeted at underage drinking in Tempe.

Police officers gathered at the intersection of South Mill Avenue and West Ninth Street to brief officers before they set off on a weekend of increased patrols.

The zones officers will cover range from Broadway Road to University Drive and McClintock Drive to Mill Avenue.

After many attempts to discourage underage people from consuming alcohol, Tempe police decided more action was needed, said Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff.

"We have tried everything in our community,” Ryff said. “We've tried education and we've tried outreach. We've tried working with the different fraternity groups. We’ve tried talking to the students and our youth about the dangers associated with alcohol."

Ryff said that in a similar crackdown, police arrested approximately 1,700 people and issued 400 DUI’s in an 11-night span.

Officers involved in this event came from all regions of the Valley, including three volunteers for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office who helped with transport.

Event speakers encouraged the officers to be strict, vigilant, safe and to not give any breaks to minors who consumed alcohol.

While the event focuses on all Tempe residents, police are also trying to reach out to keep ASU students safe.

ASU Police Chief John Pickens said the department's crime prevention unit holds speaking engagements with students and Greek organizations throughout the academic year.

“I think there’s a speaking engagement Sunday night for one of the fraternities," he said. "We get requests to do that."

Ryff made it clear that the mission of these officers is to be strict about underage drinking.

“This young girl that died this past week, I met with her mother and father this week personally," he said. “That’s not the first time I’ve met with the parent of a student who has lost their lives in tragic situations in this community. So what I’m trying to do as Tempe’s chief, is to go out with Chief Pickens (and) to make sure that once again we set the record straight in this community, especially to youth, to let them know that this is not going to be tolerated. We are not going to go away.”

Reach the reporter at chelsey.ballarte@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @chelseyballarte

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