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Police chief hails new city social host law

City PD makes first arrests under law that targets
people who hold underage drinking parties

By SARAH VABER
Staff Reporter
The first arrests under the city’s new social host law were made April 12, city Police Chief F. Michael Catalano told the police commission Wednesday.
The law targeting hosts of parties with underage drinking was filed by the state April 8 or April 9, Catalano said after the meeting, enabling officers to start making arrests on the violation.
The city’s Common Council unanimously passed the local law Dec. 17.
Kevin J. McDonough, 21, was arrested for hosting a party with underage drinking about 7 p.m. at 148 Tompkins St. and Andrew J. Tolosi, 21, was arrested about 4:15 p.m. at 6 Monroe Heights, he said.
Both were released and are due to appear April 28 in City Court.
Officers were on regular patrols when they spotted outside parties at the residences, as well as what looked to be underage people drinking alcohol, Catalano said.
After stopping and asking the partiers for identification, at least one person was charged with underage drinking at each home and the hosts were arrested, he said.
The parties were at “college houses,” Catalano told the commissioners.
The advantage of the new law is that police don’t have to depend on a person being charged with underage drinking to tell who gave him or her alcohol, he said.
“This law now allows us to arrest the party host,” Catalano said. “I think it’s going to be a great tool.”
Violators face a $250 fine or 15-day jail term.
Landlords or parents away from home when a house party occurs are not targeted by the law.
The law went into effect in time for the SUNY Cortland’s Spring Fling on May 3, Catalano said.
While the college offers activities on campus and a concert, there are always house parties off campus that weekend, he said.
“There’s always been an offshoot,” Catalano told commissioners, referring to the Monroe Fest block party that he said city police have mostly eliminated. The city officially banned the block party in the spring of 2011.
“If it’s a beautiful day, there’ll be a lot of parties popping up,” he said, noting that police will be out in force.
Spring Fling is the first major event since out-of-control Cortaca gameday partying brought negative national media attention to Cortland in November.

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