Saturday, August 18, 2007

Schenectady Gazette Editorial, 8/18/07

Mess at Dave Matthews concert began outside SPAC grounds It was hardly comforting to read yesterday that the 15-year-old girl who earlier in the week reported being sexually assaulted during the Dave Matthews concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center hadn’t actually been raped — but had merely engaged in consensual sex with a 15-year-old boy. Obviously, the girl was too young to be having sex, and the fact she was having it in a public place with a boy she’d apparently just met was equally disturbing. Still, it’s hard to blame her for the mess she got into given what else reportedly happened that day. According to Saratoga Spa park police, the mother of one of the girl’s friends drove them to SPAC that afternoon, and before dropping them off, stopped and bought them a bottle of vodka! (When the girl’s blood alcohol content was measured at the hospital, it was 0.17 percent — more than twice the legal limit for driving a car.) The mother, 42-year-old Lisa Vedder of Clifton Park, has appropriately been charged with supplying the girls with alcohol and faces jail time if convicted. She deserves some — for her act has to be viewed as a contributing factor to the predicament the girl got herself into. Vedder probably wasn’t the only negligent parent Tuesday. According to eyewitness reports, the SPAC and state park parking lots were full of teens who arrived many hours before the concert’s 7 p.m. start, set up grills and proceeded to hold football-stadium-style, alcohol-fueled tailgate parties before heading into the show. Where did they get the booze? Park police are responsible for SPAC parking lots, which are part of the state park. For a big show like the Dave Matthews Band, they augment their somewhat meager local numbers with colleagues from around the state, but either the 54 who were on duty Tuesday didn’t get started early enough or were too willing to look the other way when they encountered minors in possession of alcohol. They’re supposed to write tickets for violations of this law, and force minors caught with alcohol to pour it out. But as of yesterday, a state park spokesperson couldn’t confirm to what extent, if any, this was done Tuesday. Clearly it’s too easy to just blame parents who either buy the booze for their kids or pretend they don’t know they’re drinking. Police have to step up here, too. And it’s not enough to simply stop the kids with booze on their way through the turnstiles. They need to be prevented from turning the parking lots into giant tailgate parties before the shows.