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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. 

Joe Stewart June 29, 2012 at 02:02 PM
WAKE UP! Realize that kids are going to get alcohol and kids are going to drink. Educate these children about drinking responsibly and parents...GET CLOSER TO YOUR KIDS. This is one of those parenting issues that is tough to deal with. I personally have 6 children. Around the age of 16 you stat giving them more and more freedom and they experiment. Around 17 to 18, they drive....mobility=freedom. I told my kids that if they are going to a party where there is drinking, and they are going to drink, TELL ME! I don't get mad, I simply go pick them up after the party. This way they can be cool and drink; however, they don't get completely plastered because mom or dad is coming to get them. If you decide to drink after you drive to a party, CALL ME, let me know and I will come get you and your car....or pick up the car in the morning. THIS keeps the kids safe. You can punish whoever you want and/or put laws in place, but it isn't going to do ANYTHING. Spend the money on alcohol education for the kids. The article states that "Since its implementation in 1996, nearly 10,000 underage persons and adults have been arrested in the state as a result of the initiative"; however, it does not say if it stopped the people from doing it again. I'm guessing NO.
So Much to Say June 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
150 underage drinking and pot smoking teens at a party the other night off Yellowbank and all the Toms River police did was shoo them away and allowed then to get into their cars and drive away DRUNK. Is this a responsible police response. I think NOT! We the homeowners surrounding this party house stood there shocked. Also what kind of parents go off to Las Vegas and leave 2 teens in charge.
GG June 30, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Not all underage kids are going to drink. Some are responsible and do follow the laws as well as some parents. They might be the minority and the less popular, but who cares. You are right they get alcohol from their Parents, just as you and the reason why are kids have so many problems today. I think the adults are the ones who needs an education on the laws. Obviously they need to crack down on the Parents.
GG June 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I have heard this before, nothing new. The town Police in a lot of towns choose not to do their job that they were hired to do. Most likely the police new someone with a little clout at this house Party. If you take one in, you have to take them all in. Unless they are brazen enough to bust some and not others. Not saying that did not happen before either. But the kids are smarter today with all the phones and pictures they take. Yet they will use an example out of kids and parents that have no clout and connection. Duh!!! They have to bust someone. That is what you call, Stupid Parents.
GG June 30, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Now this funny, Director Halfacre states that Belmar is a key player in the "Cops in Shops program" to help control drinking of underage drinking. (30 towns in participating from Monmouth Beach to Toms River.) Is Point Pleasant Beach in that equation? Most likely not, being he is helping only some towns control related drinking problems and hurting others by not letting every town set their own bar hours. He is not worrying about what the residents and kids have to put up in Point Pleasant Beach with all the related drinking issue. I sure hope they are going to have camera's watching the Police in action that no one is going to be let go.

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