Attorney General Outlines 'Cops in Shops' Program to Curb Underage Drinking
Undercover police will be behind the counter in liquor stores across the Jersey Shore this summer
The state attorney general on Tuesday came to Belmar to outline his plan to stop underage drinking at the Jersey Shore.
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, along with several state and local officials, and members of the liquor and prevention industry gathered at the Taylor Pavillion at the beach to discuss the "Cops in Shops" initiative, which puts undercover officers behind liquor store counters, to reign in underage drinking.
Since its implementation in 1996, nearly 10,000 underage persons and adults have been arrested in the state as a result of the initiative, according to a release from the attorney general's office.
This year 30 shore police departments — more than a dozen from Monmouth Beach down to Toms River were represented Tuesday — are participating in the program, with roughly $61,000 in funding provided by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the release says.
Belmar is a key player in the program, said Michael Halfacre, director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Not only will law enforcement be looking for underage adults and teens using fake IDs to buy alcohol, but also for anyone 21 and older purchasing beer and liquor for underage consumption, Chiesa said.
Underage persons scoping for sympathetic adults to buy them alcohol, known as "fishing," has increasingly become a serious problem across the state, Chiesa said.
"That can't happen," Chiesa said.
Every year nearly 5000 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related incidents, Chiesa said.
Monmouth County First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said "youthful indiscretions" that lead to underage drinking too often result in hospital visits, car accidents, violence and other injuries.
Roughly 60 percent of underage teens and adults get alcohol from family and friends, according to Eric Strickland, spokesman for the Century Council, which represents the distilled spirits industry in their fight against drunk driving and underage drinking.
"A lot of parents might want to be the cool parent, but they don't want to be 'that' parent," Halfacre said.
The other 40 percent get their booze from strangers outside liquor stores or by using fake IDs, Strickland said.
"If you try to buy, please don't," Strickland said.
And for anyone trying to get into a bar or tavern with a fake ID, Diane Weiss, director of the state's Licensed Beverage Association, said they should simply wait until they're old enough.
"Come back when you're 21. Your buisness is not welcome," Weiss said.
Also on hand to speak Tuesday were State Assemblyman David P. Rible and Diane Higgins of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.