House parties. Backyard blowouts. Huge warehouse events – all promising drugs and booze to underage kids.
Fox 11's Investigative Unit got exclusive access to hit the streets with the LA County Sheriff's Department as deputies crack down on illegal teen parties.
For more than a year we've been reporting on the teen party scene -- events promoted on Facebook that frequently spiral out of control. Drug overdoses, rapes, gang fights, even shootings have become a big part of this underground party scene.
Now the sheriff has created an entire unit -- the first of its kind -- that monitors social media to stop these parties before they get going. This high tech unit picks up leads from publicly available information on the Internet -- Facebook, Twitter and other sites – then sends the locations of the illegal parties to deputies in the field.
The sheriff agreed to allow us exclusive access to this remarkable team of deputies. For three nights we rode with the team. What emerged was a picture of a sophisticated, creative and deceptive network of party promoters.
Most of the promoters are underage kids themselves who have learned they can make a lot of money throwing parties – charging admission and selling alcohol and nitrous oxide, known as "Noz." One small tank of Noz can earn a kid hundreds of dollars.
Each night, the deputies we followed had a long list of parties -- more locations than we could possible visit. So we triaged the list, hitting the biggest, most dangerous-looking parties first. We showed up to one East LA party and the kids scattered as soon as the black-and-white units rolled up.
We could watch on our phones the tweets went out telling kids the party already had a new location. By the time we hit that address, 50 kids had shown up. More than 1,500 kids had RSVP'ed to show up at the tiny house. Deputies said it could have easily turned ugly. But they stopped it and told the homeowner and the promoter to put the word out or face the legal consequences.
And so it went night after night -- a cat-and-mouse game between party promoters and the new sheriff's team whose only real goal is to keep everyone safe.