WILMINGTON -- A couple of kegs and a case of beer weren't the source of a good time at one recent get-together. Instead, they were tapped as evidence when Alcohol Law Enforcement agents busted an underage party.
Authorities wrote tickets and confiscated the source of a growing and undeniable problem among Wilmington's youth: alcohol.
One high school senior says about 90 percent of people she knows drink or have gotten drunk.
"If you haven't experienced alcohol, you haven't experienced high school," said Erin Spencer.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but the statistics reflect her assertion.
Last year alone, authorities in New Hanover County wrote 500 tickets for underage possession of alcohol. For every one of those, ALE estimates 200 went unnoticed - which could mean 92,000 instances of drinking illegally every year in New Hanover County.
Many teenagers consider underage drinking the norm, but parents and lawmakers are trying to fight that mentality.
"There are 5,000 deaths of our young people under the age of 21 each year. That's the size of a small town wiped out every year. If that happened every year, we would notice it," said Mary Easley, North Carolina's first lady.
"It's hard to see those numbers, 1 to 2 children dying in our community," she said. "I know the Wilmington area has suffered greatly over the years from losing wonderful young people, and all those deaths are unnecessary."
Easley and other experts say it's up to parents, peers and teens to make underage drinking the exception, rather than the rule.