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MINEOLA, N.Y. — For the second consecutive year, at some Nassau County schools, proms included an important guest, the Nassau County TLC and the police. Nassau County police have partnered with the Nassau County TLC to inspect prom-bound limos and buses in an effort to crack down on teenage drinking and illegal vehicles for hire.
Nassau TLC agents are free to inspect limos and buses. Schools were told in advance of the searches, said Joseph Chierchio, assistant to the commissioner. In addition, the prom patrol has issued $60,000 in fines. Last year, fines totaled $69,475.
On June 21, this season's busiest prom night, the task force dispatched 22 Consumer Affairs employees and 12 patrol officers, Chierchio said.
Drivers lose their vehicles for driving without the appropriate license, officials said. If the affected limos or buses were impounded, students were provided with new vehicles at the violating company's expense.
Since May, Nassau TLC agents have confiscated 51 bottles of alcohol and impounded 43 vehicles. Last year, when the patrol targeted a similar number of proms, authorities seized 165 bottles and impounded nine vehicles.
The special patrol searched buses and limousines at the proms of 37schools, from East Meadow High to Hempstead High, according to a list supplied by the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs. They scoured backseats and popped trunks to confiscate beer and hard liquor. Students who surrendered their alcohol were still allowed to attend their proms, said Roger Bogsted, the county's commissioner of consumer affairs.
Bogsted attributed the drop in alcohol seizures, this year over last year, to the initiative. "They knew we were coming, so very few of them tried to bring bottles," he said.
Mark Scher, principal of East Meadow High School, said the prom patrol was an effective deterrent. "We had told our kids this was going to happen," he said. "They searched every limo and every party bus, and they found zero alcohol bottles."
But some people, including the principal of Hempstead High School, weren't pleased. "I sort of felt that some of the people were disrespectful to our students and very nasty," principal Reginald Stroughn said. "They didn't find anything. . . it held up kids going into the prom. We had over 300 kids."
The prom patrol is just one of several local efforts to rein in reckless end-of-year behavior. At Seaford High School, students may be subject to a Breathalyzer, if administrators think they're acting suspiciously, principal Michael Ragon said.
Other schools, such as Kellenberg Memorial High, a Catholic school, have abolished senior proms. "So many kids are drinking," said Bernard Kaplan, principal of Great Neck North High School, where prom protocol includes parent education and requiring students to rent limos from a single, trusted company.
"It's so much a part of the culture we live in."
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