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College and city law enforcement agencies across Richmond unite to combat underage drinking

The Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department hosted the launch of RVA Buzzkill this week, a multimedia awareness campaign that highlights the personal, professional and legal consequences of underage drinking and serving alcohol to those under 21.

Police chiefs from VCU, the University of Richmond, Virginia Union University, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and the Richmond Police Department joined together on Thursday to send a message to area college-aged residents: Serve under 21 and the party’s over.

GRTC buses with Broad Street routes in Richmond are wrapped with RVABuzzkill messaging as part of a multi-agency campaign to combat underage drinking.
GRTC buses with Broad Street routes in Richmond are wrapped with RVABuzzkill messaging as part of a multi-agency campaign to combat underage drinking.

“The Urban Dictionary defines buzzkill as something that spoils or ruins an otherwise enjoyable event, especially when in relation to ruining a drunken or drug-induced high,” said VCU Police Chief John Venuti. “The statistics involving alcohol-related incidents and college students are staggering. All of the agencies represented here today have a shared interest in combating this problem.”

Multimedia efforts include:

·         Billboard signage on GRTC buses.

·         Radio ads.

·         Social media posts tagged with #RVABuzzkill.

·         Myth/Fact signs for residence halls and academic buildings.

·         Stickers used by local businesses on items such as pizza boxes and beverage coolers.

·         An #RVABuzzkill vehicle on VCU’s campus.

·         Educational materials for students.

The RVA BuzzKill project is funded by a Virginia Department of Behavioral Health (VDBHDS) grant to the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (VAHPERD) for school, campus and community media education to prevent underage drinking, and by a Virginia DMV grant to the Virginia Association for Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (VACLEA) to plan campus law enforcement strategies to prevent underage drinking and impaired driving. The program is also supported by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

All of the agencies represented here today have a shared interest in combating this problem.

The ultimate goal of the campaign is to continually remind college-aged residents and students about the risks associated with underage drinking. Messaging in the campaign shows the connection between underage drinking and sexual assault, jail time, denials of professional licensure, physical effects on athletes, legal liability for renters serving those under 21, and impaired driving.

Fred Milbert, VAHPERD’s president, helped kick off the campaign.

“Virginia’s health and physical educators are proud to support educational materials, bus and radio advertising to promote a larger effort focusing on the prevention of parental social hosting, encouraging family discussions about youth alcohol use and the prevention of high school alcohol use,” he said.

A big target audience for RVA Buzzkill is students living in the neighborhoods surrounding Richmond-area colleges. Off-campus students lease apartments and houses during the academic year.

Alyse Marshall–Avernheimer is a member of the West Grace Street Association – an area neighborhood association near VCU. She’s supportive of the RVA Buzzkill campaign.

“Serving under 21 is a problem for every neighborhood adjacent to VCU,” Marshall–Avernheimer said. “We want kids as part of our neighborhoods but try to have them understand that they’re part of a neighborhood.”

More information on these efforts is available at preventunderagedrinkingva.com/schools/buzzkill/. RVA Buzzkill campaign materials were adapted with permission from the Ohio Drug Free Action Alliance.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.