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June 13, 2003     Cape Gazette
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June 13, 2003

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20 - CAPE GAZETYE, Friday, June 13 - June 19, 2003 June bugs have arrived- and with them some raucous behavior By Erik Sumption On a tepid June night in Dewey Beach, the faces of the people walking down the sidewalks look young and innocent. At the police precinct a juvenile girl, clearly distraught, leaves escorted by her aunt and uncle. Through several locked doors is the small room where she was held and inside it reeks of stale alcohol. This is where the June bugs are detained. When high school finally lets out in June, students descend on this resort town for a rite of pas- sage. For the duration of their stay more alcohol and drugs will be consumed by them than people want to realize. Locals and police call them the June bugs. It's late Saturday night and a party is busted on Dickinson Street. While Pfc. Cliff Dempsey of the Dewey Beach Police places confiscated alcohol in his vehicle, the June bugs talk inside. "I'm going to cry after he leaves," ex- claims one Salesianum student. "All that alcohol given away." The alcohol he is referring to is a relatively small amount; a couple cases of cheap beer and a few bot- tles of hard liquor. This is an ex- pected setback according to his friend dressed in a white collared shirt leaning against the wall. "Part of senior week is cops," he says. "If there's not, you're not having enough fun." Up the stairs to the second floor, past a stumbling drunk, there are at least 15 kids from Padua and ' Salesianum schools in Wilming- ton. Some crowd around an unctu- ous kitchen table playing a drink- ing game called beer pong. The air is thick. There's still some beer to go around and the fact a cop is still outside the door doesn't faze them because this is only the fn'st night and they will party through the week. "We try talking our way out of anything and we're pretty good about it," claims another Salesianum student. These June bugs are lucky be- cause they are not going to be ar- rested for underage consumption of alcohol. The prayer card one of the kids received from his mom works. According to her son who is surprisingly sober, sporting a backwards hat, she said "show it to the police and you'll be fine." These June bugs admit their parents know they're down at the beach, but they don't know the amount of alcohol the kids will consume. "Parents are in denial," agree the group. Some parents were worried and offered advice. "Don't get arrested" and "don't come home in handcuffs," are some of the things they said. Most never gave any warnings. There are some parents who ob- ject to the idea of an unchaper- oned weekend at the beach. A Walt Whitman High School junior executed a detailed operation to be able to deceive his parents. He told them he was going camping, but instead drove two and one half hours to Dewey Beach to be with his girlfriend. His parents were given a phony cell phone number with a fake message to cover his tracks. While he is partying at the beach, parents think he is out of touch in the woods. More June bugs are gathered at a small condo facing the beach. They are from Walt Whitman High School and are not venturing out to find the evening's parties. Reportedly 300 of their class- mates are sprinkled about town staying in over 20 different places. One girl sees she has 14 missed calls on her cell phone. The group knows what parties have been busted and what to avoid. "People are afraid to get together because it will be busted by the cops," ac- cording to a girl relaxed in a chair in the common room. They have things covered because their re- frigerator is stocked full of liquor and one guy lying on the couch, under the covers next to his girl, admits friends have brought mari- juana, an ounce-and-a-half to cov- er their needs. Exactly how all the alcohol is obtained by these 17 and 18 year . A small refrigerator is packed with a combination of cheap beer and bottles of hard Hquor. This is a relatively small amount of alcohol, but only five June bugs are staying at the cond SumptJon photos An intoxicated bey lies passed out the floor of an apartment in front of the police who try to wake him. Although friends claimed he was fine, this juvenile was taken to Beebe Medical Center with a possible ease of alcohol poisoning. olds is not a mystery. It is pro- cured from liquor stores at home..."with the use of fake IDs or sold without an ID check at all," claim three June bugs from Bethesda, Md. "One of our friends here packed the back of his Chevy Avalanche with 40 30- packs of beer." They come pre- pared with enough booze to last them for their stay. Buying alco- hol in town with all the police around is the last thing they want to do. The apartments contain the ubiquitous cases of cheap beer, bottles of hard liquor, mixed drinks like Smirnoff Ice and Bac- ardi Silver, but only a few sport a keg. A screened in.porch has been demarcated with an imaginary line by the police. To the left stand juveniles, kids under the age of 18, and to the right are the I 8 year olds. Another party of about 20 kids has been broken up on Van Dyke Street. There is a palpable unease among the Concord High School and Charter School stu- dents from Wilmington. A few re- lax, realizing the situation can't get any worse. Inside cops find a bounty of alcohol. There are at least five cases of beer in a closet, two coolers full of beer and hard liquor, and a large refrigerator pack.ed with more alcohol than food. Another discovery is made down the hall. A kid is passed out cold on the bed. It takes several minutes for the police to make the young man respond and move an inch. He is dragged out of bed and propped up until he can find his legs. The police lead him down the hall and he stumbles against the walls. When he makes it to the porch he falls to the ground supine. Police perform a sternum rub which aggravates him and he mumbles expletives to the police, not knowing who they are. "C'mon get up," says one of his friends. He rolls over onto his stomach. Someone says to the po- lice "he's all right; he didn't have much-to drink." Finally, m maim- lance is called and the boy is transported to Beebe Medical Center with possible alcohol poi- soning. His parents will have to drive down from Wilmington to collect him at the hospital and have him released from police custody. The situation around town has changed remarkably, according to the Dewey Beach Police Depart- ment. "It used to be mobbed. Kids walking down the sidewalk. I remember five times the amount of juveniles in town," says Dempsey. Two years ago the number of June bugs in town at any one time almost reached 1,000. Now the numbers are in the low hundreds. "It's a lot calmer than it used to be," agrees Patrolman Tim Webb. "It used to be wild." The proactive work of the po- lice department has caused the dramatic change. At night there are more saturation patrols. Po- lice are driving around in vehi- cles, walking the streets and rid- ing on bieye.les all in an effort "to make contact with the kids, find out where they're going and let them know we know they're un- der 21 and are being watched," according to Dempsey. Juveniles arrested for underage consump- tion of alcohol are brought to the station where they can only be re- leased to parents or a responsible guardian. Dempsey says a lot of angry parents have made long drives from Wilmington and other places in the middle of the night to bail out their children. An ap- pearance in juvenile court is mandatory. June bugs who are 18 and over receive a stiff $287 fine. The June bugs who come to town for senior week usually don't end up in the hospital or prison, but all do come with the purpose of drinking, having fun and spending some fmal moments with their friends. "It's the last time our grade will be together," admits a Walt Whitman High stu- dent. 'q'he girls are easy. Every- thing comes easy," claims a class- mate. "Back home the party gets busted. It's a way for us to act like kids." It's also about tradi- tion. Previous senior classes made the trip and it's something classes will continue to do in the future. "It's what everyone did in the pasL" agrees another Walt Whit- man student. This tradition will be passed on to younger siblings and classmates, only this time with a warning; the police are watching. Dewey Beach Police officer Cliff Dempsey radios back to headquarters checking the IDs of two 18 year olds questioned for underage consumption of alcohol. They were not de- ttin md #  to  home for the nlOt.