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Community service for Valencia's underage street drinkers: “Fines get paid by their parents, so they don't learn”
UNDERAGE drinkers who stage bring-your-own-bottle street parties will be made to carry out community service in Valencia to teach them the error of their ways.
Normally, a boozy gathering in public – known as a botellón and popular with youngsters who cannot afford pub prices – net participants a hefty fine, but where the culprits are under 18, this has to be paid by their parents.
To this end, it is no deterrent as the teen in question does not suffer any 'punishment' for his or her illegal activity, aside from whatever reprimand they may get from their parents – and where the parents are lenient or even negligent, the young drinker may not suffer any consequence at all.
But community service means it is the child who has to 'pay' for taking part in a botellón, and also means the city gets a good clean-up at no extra cost.
Fines will, however, continue to be dished out to establishments which sell alcohol to anyone under 18, and town councils will be informed of any tourists indulging in unseemly behaviour in public.
Valencia councillor for Public Protection, Anaïs Menguzzato, admits police forces do not have the capacity to keep tabs on and break up botellones, given their frequency, ubiquitous nature and sheer size.
And officers are only really able to dish out fines, which teaches children nothing when they do not have to pay it themselves.
Also, if police gather in popular botellón locations to stop them happening, the crowds of youths simply wait until officers have dispersed and then start the party – and it is a waste of the force's resources to have the police standing around in the same place all night as a precaution.
Sra Menguzzato says warnings about community service should be given to children as young as 12 or 13, since many kids this age are already entertaining themselves with alcohol and, due to peer bravado and immaturity, are the most likely to stage pointless acts of vandalism or generally create a public nuisance.
The councillor also wants to crack down on tourists behaving badly, and says that filing an official complaint about holidaymakers who do not live in the region 'is pointless' as 'you are never going to get the fine paid'.
Instead, she says the council in holidaymakers' place of residence would be informed since, even if the local authority in question did not take any action against individual tourists, it would serve as an embarassment to the town if they were seen as being a hotbed of uncivilised residents who were poor ambassadors for their location when they travelled.
Whether this would extend to foreign tourists is unknown, and appears unlikely given the logistics of it.
But Sra Menguzzato concedes that apparently anti-social behaviour by visitors may well be a case of 'not being familiar with local bye-laws', such as 'not taking a dip in the fountains'.
She says offending tourists should be warned first, and only fined for reoffending.
Information should also be given to holidaymakers to improve their safety and enjoyment during their stay, such as telling them in which areas of the city to be most on their guard against pickpockets, Sra Menguzzato concludes.
Photograph of a botellón, or bring-your-own-bottle street-drinking party, in Valencia's Cedro neighbourhood, taken by its local residents' association
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