EXETER — Police were called to break up an underage drinking party at 54 Newfields Road Wednesday night.

Sgt. Pete Tilton said 20 individuals under the age of 21 were held in protective custody until their guardians could come to the address to pick their child up after receiving an anonymous tip just passed 11:45 p.m. about an underage party.

Tilton said three officers responded to the scene and made contact with a property owner. Tilton said the individual could be facing a Class B misdemeanor charge for facilitating an underage drinking party, which carries up to a $2,000 fine. He declined to comment further on the status of the homeowner, citing an active investigation.

“There were numerous vehicles in the front yard,” Tilton said. “Our officers then made contact with some of the minors on the property before contacting the homeowner who was on scene.”

Tilton said officers observed the “possibility” of marijuana use, but did not seize any from the scene. He said it is department policy to examine each underage party on a case-by-case basis in terms of either holding teenagers in protective custody at the scene or transporting them to the station.

“When we’re so overwhelmed, it’s often the best case scenario to call the parents and have them pick them up at the scene,” Tilton said. “We give (the parents) the keys to make sure no one is driving. If we were to transport everyone, we would have tied up our officers until 6 a.m.”

Tilton said based on the high number of individuals present, it would have created an administrative hardship to issue a minor in possession citation to each and every teen suspected of drinking underage.

“I’ve never had a party with this many kids, and it’s the officers’ discretion whether to issue a summons or choose protective custody,” Tilton said. “If we cite one kid, we have to cite them all. (The officers) would have to transport each individual, fingerprint and photograph everyone and set court dates.”