Shore Officials Crack Down on Underage Drinking [AUDIO]
Teens trying to buy alcohol at the Jersey Shore this summer will have a harder time of doing so with the yearly launch of the Cops in Shops program.
The initiative, which is in its 17th year, will put officers in 28 shore towns in and around liquor stores to catch anyone using fake ID's, selling alcohol to minors, or buying alcohol for minors.
Speaking Thursday on Belmar's boardwalk, Alcohol Control Commission Director Michael Halfacre introduced the start of the summer initiative and was joined by Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccione, Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty, as well as representatives from the Century Council, the New Licensed Beverage Association, and the Liquor Store Alliance.
Halfacre notes since 1996 the Cops in Shops program has resulted in 10,000 arrests and has seen participation increase from six departments to 28 currently.
The program is funded through various grants, the summer 2013 initiative is being done through a $61,000 grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety. Law enforcement undergoes training on how to identify fake IDs as well as the various laws and protocols associated with the sale of alcohol.
Explaining the program, Halfacre says police work in teams of two standing inside or outside of liquor stores, watching for the sale of alcohol to minors, or just as importantly a practice called "fishing."
"Where the kids wait in the parking lot [of a liquor store] for a 'cool' looking grown up and say, 'Hey will you buy us a case?'"
Prosecutor Gramiccione says that while underage drinking is something that is regarded likely by the public, often with an 'everybody does it' attitude, the consequences can be dire.
"It's the DUI or DWIs, or the drunken physical assaults or sometimes sexual assaults, or even death."
The prosecutor points out he has seen many minors die as the result of drinking too much and getting on the road, often taking the lives of innocent by standards or friends.
"They all think they're invincible, I remember thinking like that, but I remember thinking like that. The reality is from my side of the house is, it does; and it's unfortunate when we're pulling dead teenagers out of cars."
The penalty for underage drinking or providing alcohol to minors can be punishable for up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Stores selling alcohol to minors also risk losing their liquor license.
Towns involved in the summer initiative include: Absecon, Avalon, Barnegat Township, Beach Haven, Belmar, Egg Harbor Township, Harvey Cedars, Jackson Township, Lake Como, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lavallette Boro, Long Beach Township, Lower Township, Manchester Township, Neptune Township, Neptune City, North Wildwood, Ocean Gate, Ocean Township, Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant Boro, Sea Isle City, Seaside Heights, Ship Bottom, Spring Lake Heights, Toms River Township and Wildwood.