The Sun News

Prom night in Houston County: Prancing, dancing and a strong dose of law enforcement

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With the prom season just around the corner for most Houston County students, local law enforcement agencies are already preparing for the big day.

“Generally, we have a couple officers assigned to each prom location … to monitor and assist and to keep situations from arising,” said Sgt. Porter Wood of the Warner Robins Police Department’s school liaison unit.

“The schools pretty much run everything. Sometimes we make sure that people who are not supposed to be there do not come in.”

Wood said that some people show up to the prom out of curiosity or because they have friends there, but no one can get into the prom without a ticket. Once students walk into the building where the prom is held, they have to stay; when they walk out, they will not be permitted back inside.

“They cannot go in and out to their vehicles,” he said. “They have to be part of the program inside. That way (officials) can monitor what is going on and who is around.”

Monitoring the parking lots to make sure students are not hanging around outside also helps to keep down a lot of trouble, Wood explained.

“The last few years … kids have acted very well and not caused a lot of problems. They have a good time,” he said, adding that all the local agencies “work together and assist each other when anything comes up.”

Lt.. Clay Chambers, who oversees the Traffic Division for the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, and Deputy Sheriff Matt Moulton say that although there will be a strong law enforcement presence on prom nights, parents and students planning ahead can also help ensure that prom night is fun and safe.

“I can’t remember a prom death because the presence (of law enforcement) is so strong in Houston County,” said Chambers, adding that school resource officers also do a great job of keeping up with what’s going on with students in the school.

Moulton is team leader for the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic Team, which is funded through a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The grant is intended to help reduce the number of serious injury and fatal crashes in Georgia.

Moulton said parents can monitor the Houston County Sheriff’s Traffic Division Facebook page, which provides educational information, notes problems in the area, lists areas where it will be enforcing traffic, and posts photos of educational events or lectures.

In addition, he said parents should make a plan before prom time arrives. They should know who is driving, where the child is going after the prom and exactly at whose home the child will be..

“The biggest problem is where they are going after the prom,” he said.

Sometimes even the best of intentions can be a problem. Moulton said officers have run into situations where parents have told their children they can have friends over after the prom as long as they agree to give the parents their keys. The number of people showing up gets out of hand, police arrive and the students scatter.

“It’s a big ordeal at prom time,” he said, adding that these parents can be charged with delinquency of a minor.

Although there is a midnight curfew for minors, Moulton said safety really “comes back to the parents establishing guidelines and making sure they know what goes on with their children.”

Chambers said parents who stay up waiting for their children to arrive back home after prom can be a big deterrent for kids looking to get into mischief simply because the parents will know if “something is off.”

Capt. Chris Rooks, of the Warner Robins Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, suggests that “kids hang out with groups that they trust.”

“Teenage girls needs to be especially careful about their drinks at prom,” he advised. “You don’t want anything slipped into their drinks. It’s just general advice we give. There is a lot of excitement about prom. Some make good choices, some don’t.”