Parties with underage drinking have become such a problem for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, the department now says it will arrest the partygoers and take them to jail or the juvenile detention center.
Until now, underage drinkers often have been issued citations -- essentially a ticket -- that doesn't include an arrest or a mug shot but requires the person to appear before a judge.
"Parties involving juveniles drinking [have] become a huge problem in that most are held in dangerous areas or at lake access points during the night and into the early morning hours," according to a sheriff's office news release Thursday.
"Also when law enforcement agencies are called to incidents such as this, it ties up resources and manpower for long periods of time," the release said. "Hopefully, young people who become involved in this type of risky behavior will stop before someone is hurt or a death occurs."
By law, underage drinking in Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 11 months 29 days in jail or a fine of $2,500, or both.
The release followed a mass bust early Thursday morning on Signal Mountain. Four adults and 17 underage youths were arrested in the 2400 block of Edwards Point Road. The youths were taken to juvenile detention and the adults to the county jail.
Everyone detained had been drinking, a sheriff's report said.
Alexandra Anderson, Stephen Wilkins, Trevor Thompson and Zackery Frisbee, all 18, were charged with underage drinking. All except Frisbee, who refused to take a Breathalyzer test, admitted drinking, deputies said, and all four had their bonds set at $1,000 each.
Under state law, information about the juveniles, including where they go to school, is not public.
When deputies arrived at Edwards Point Road, people were trying to flee, according to the sheriff's report.
Deputies had received a call in which a male said he was being shot at, according to the report. It's unclear whether that was actually happening, but no one has been charged with a weapons violation.
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