Anniston police chief warns parents about mass invitation, barely supervised graduation parties

·4 min read

May 12—Last May, six people were injured by gunfire at a graduation party on South Front Street in Anniston. Though none of the injuries was fatal, Anniston police Chief Nick Bowles said he wants to get ahead of the potentially lethal ramifications of these parties.

Bowles has a message for parents: "If you value your child's life, if you value their safety, do not send them to these events. Period," he said.

There is one type of party to which Bowles is referring, and that's the large parties that are open to the public, advertised widely, and scarcely supervised by adults.

"I'm monitoring a party right now that some kids that look like they're coming from Talladega County, having a big party in Anniston, and they're openly advertising on Facebook that they're going to be drinking and doing illegal things," Bowles said. "We are going to be there. We are going to heavily police that."

Bowles said the Anniston police will have a zero tolerance policy for illegal activity for minors. He said he feels parents need to be aware of where their kids are going and who they are with. A large mixture of people with different rival groups showing up, violence is inevitable.

"My advice to parents is 'Don't send your kids to a party here if you don't know that they're being supervised by adults or that they're being legal with their parties," Bowles said.

Businesses that rent spaces out for parties such as these will also be held accountable, Bowles said. Smaller house parties that are contained with a certain number of people on the guest list are typically quiet and safe. It's when larger groups of people get together that it spells trouble.

Bowles mentioned the attacks in Dadeville where four people died by gunfire at a "Sweet 16" party, and said that could very easily happen here.

"We're not going to do it. I'm not going to subject the community to violence, I'm not going to subject other people's children to violence. We are going to crack down on these parties," Bowles said.

Bowles' frustration was clear as he spoke. "I'm tired of it," he said.

"I don't want to have to go knock on someone's door at midnight telling them that their child is not coming home from a graduation party," Bowles said. "This should be a great time in their lives. This should be one of the happiest times that they've reached this milestone and potentially someone's child could not come home."

Bowles said in recent years, there has been a rise of adults renting out spaces to have these large parties that host everyone that wants to come, advertising the parties on social media and boasting of illegal activities for minors such as drinking.

There are legal ways to host a larger party that are safer, such as renting a space in the City Meeting Center that are monitored by law enforcement.

Jacksonville police Chief Marcus Wood echoed Bowles' statements, urging parents and teens to stay safe.

"Even though parents want their kids to be able to celebrate themselves graduating, I think it's important that they know where their kids are, that they talk to their kids," Wood said.

Parents should speak to their teens about knowing their surroundings and having the forethought to leave an area if they know violence is about to occur.

"A lot of times kids will know a fight or something is about to happen and everybody wants to stick around and see the fight and record the fight instead of getting out of the area where the fight is about to happen," Wood said.

Tempers flare and fist-fights can escalate to other more lethal types of violence, Wood said. Wood also wanted to stress that it is the parent's duty not to supply their kids with alcohol or drugs, as those that do will be held legally liable.

"We can still honor kids and celebrate kids that are graduating with everybody doing their part to make sure everybody stays safe," Wood said.

Bowles said people often look to the police after the fact with a "where were you" attitude, and police weren't invited to the party. Law enforcement can't know when guns are going to be involved at a particular party prior to the event.

He said once police become involved, it's too late. "Parents. Don't send your children to these parties," Bowles said.

Staff Writer Ashley Morrison: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @AshMorrison1105.