Local Parents Give Police Keys When Children Are Home Alone

HUDSON, Ohio (AP) - Parents traveling outside of the Akron suburb of Hudson are inviting the police to drop by and make sure the kids are behaving.

The Hudson Police Department has started "Operation Check-Up" to allow police to enter a resident's home, with the owners' consent, to break up teen-age parties.

"This program is for the mom and dad who go out of town and their son, who is a sophomore at OSU, comes home unexpectedly and throws a party," Hudson Police Chief Jim Brown, who started the program, told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

The primary goal of the program is to limit underage drinking, particularly at house parties, Brown said.

Some critics warn that it may create a host of liability problems for police, but other police departments in the area are considering similar programs similar.

Hudson, a city of about 22,000, had 43 drug- and alcohol-related arrests of teen-agers in 2000 and 82 in 2001.

Under the program, residents sign a form that allows any Hudson police officer to act as an "interim guardian" of their homes during an absence that may range from eight hours to several weeks. They also must give the police a key to their home.

Police then have the authority to knock on the door and enter to break up unauthorized parties and escort teen-agers away.

Walter Ugrinic, chief of police in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, told the newspaper that he worries about using police resources to do a job parents should be responsible for.

"To have keys to people's homes opens a Pandora's box," Ugrinic said. "If the parents go out of town and leave the kids at home, it's the parents responsibility to have someone watching over the kids."

Ugrinic said if rumors were circulating that teen-agers were planning an unauthorized house party, the Shaker Heights Police Department would meet with the parents and might assist by placing an officer in front of the home to break up illegal activity.

Tom Hensley, chairman of the Kent State University political science department, said that according to Fourth Amendment principles, a home is a person's castle -- assuming that the person does not want the police there.

"If a person grants consent to the police to look in their car and home, the police officers are fully within their rights because they have consent," Hensley said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)