THEY MAY NOT BE ‘MOM,’ BUT POLICE CAN BE PARENTS, TOO

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The Pelham Police Department has a neat little program called, “Partnering With Parents.”

It works like this: Parents sign up with the Police Department, give them their names, addresses and telephone numbers, as well as the names of their children. If the kid gets stopped by the police, or if they are in a car that gets stopped by the police, or if they have contact with the police in any other way than a friendly “hello,” the parents get a call.

It’s kind of like when I was a kid and the local constabulary knew my parents on a first-name basis. The last person I wanted to know about a brush with the law was my mother. Dad, I wasn’t too afraid of. I wasn’t all that afraid of the police, either. But mom put the fear of God in me.

And it didn’t have to be the police. Teachers and neighbors could get me to behave like a choir boy with five simple words: “I will call your mother.” I remember the time my friends and I crossed the Aiken Street Bridge and ventured into what was then known as Little Canada. Most of the old buildings were slated for demolition, but not before we got to them. It’s amazing how easily a bannister can be torn away from its moorings. And windows? What windows? We made short work of the windows.

One of us, I forget which one, looked out the window and saw the police. We scampered out a back door and beat our way back into Centralville. We hid out for a while at the old Capitol Trucking Terminal on Lakeview Avenue before heading to our homes.

Mom wasn’t happy when I walked through the door, innocent as can be.

“Did you have fun breaking all the windows?” she asked.

“We weren’t trying to break them,” I replied weakly.

Grounded. Three weeks. No going out. No television. No listening to my record albums.

“Find something to read,” she said.

I never found out who tipped her off. It could have been the police. It could have been her large network of parents, but somebody dimed me out.

It’s not like that anymore.

Several weeks ago, the Pelham Police Department rustled up 76 young people who were attending a Battle of the Bands at the Pelham American Legion. A handful, and it was only a handful, had been drinking. All 76 kids were brought down to the police station and put in holding pens. Their parents were notified and told to come and get them. Those kids who had cars had their automobiles towed. About a half dozen kids were charged with underage drinking. Of the 76 kids, about 70 of them were from out of town and were probably not signed up with the Partners For Parents.

And what do you suppose was the reaction of some of the parents? E-mails and letters to the editor all sounded the same chorus.

“Unfair.” “Unjust.” “The police acted like storm troopers.” “My kid was doing nothing wrong.” “Not my kid.”

To be fair, it probably wasn’t your kid. A half dozen kids out of over six dozen tells me that most of the kids were there to enjoy the music. But the police did their job. They did what they are paid to do. They did what they are bound to do under state law.

In 1985, police in Kingston, N.H., pulled over a couple of kids who had alcohol in their vehicles. The police confiscated the liquor and sent the youths on their way, hopefully with a swift kick to their seat of education. Apparently, those same kids went out and got some more booze. Later in the evening a young girl was killed, prompting the law that says any juvenile in the presence of alcohol must be taken into custody.

Suppose the Pelham police let the kids leave who said they were not drinking. Suppose that one of them got behind the wheel with a half a load on. Suppose that person takes off down Bridge Street. Suppose your child is leaving Chunky’s Cinema at the same time.

Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is dshaughnessey@lowellsun.com.