Underage drinking information could lead to rewardLaw enforcement, community unite about safety over graduation weekend

With Odessa High School and Permian High School graduations this weekend, local law enforcement agencies and members of the community came together to speak about safety.

A press conference Wednesday morning at the Odessa Police Department Classroom addressed combating underage drinking and social host parties.

Law enforcement agencies in attendance at Social Host Ordinance press conference were OPD, Ector County Independent School District Police, Ector County Hospital District Police, University of Texas Permian Basin Police, Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa Crime Stoppers and the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Odessa mayor David Turner spoke to various media outlets and the press conference also featured two guest speakers, Tera Crossland and Janie Villanueva, who both had sons killed by drunk drivers in 2017. Crossland spoke about her son Nathaniel Silvas, while Villanueva talked about her son Miguel Saenz.

“It hurts so much losing a child,” Villanueva said after the press conference. “I would rather take his place. He had the rest of his life. It hurts so much. (Tuesday) was two years since he has been gone.”

OPD chief Michael Gerke said local enforcement agencies will increase patrol from Thursday to Sunday.

Susan Rogers, Odessa Crime Stoppers spokesperson, said during the press conference anyone with information that leads to an arrest or citation will receive a $500 reward. She added with a smile there is plenty of money available.

Turner said adults cited for the Social Host Ordinance can face a $2,000 fine.

The Social Host Ordinance was passed on July 25, 2017, and went into effect on Aug. 25, 2017. It was put into place to hold adults accountable who host parties where alcohol is served on property they control. Adults are held responsible for underage drinking parties if underage people are served, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol.

“Any type of issue like this, there’s no way the police department can combat that by themselves,” Gerke said. “We have to have the citizens of Odessa help us out. That’s essential.”

After the press conference, Crossland fielded questioned in front of the trailer which houses her son’s pickup that was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver.

Crossland’s son was driving his girlfriend home from his family residence in Pleasant Farms when a drunk driver crossed the median on U.S. Highway 385 and ran head on into Silvas’ truck.

Silvas would have been in Permian’s graduating class of 2019. Crossland said it’s tough to see the mangled truck that her son died in every day, but she knows the sight of the vehicle can warn others of drinking and driving.

“His memory is being kept alive and his story could change the lives of so many,” Crossland said. “I put my feelings aside and I think about all of the people that it could impact. I just know it can and will make a difference.”

On Saturday, Villanueva said her daughter, Aliyah Saenz, is set to graduate from Permian.

Villanueva said her daughter has told her that she won’t be attending any parties with alcohol and she has already urged her friends to not make the mistake of driving while intoxicated.

“(Aliyah Saenz) mentioned that she misses her brother,” Villanueva said, fighting back tears. “She doesn’t know how she’s going to do it, but she has been strong. She’s happy to be graduating, but she still misses him.”