PUBLIC SAFETY: New Jersey officials are once again bringing their “Cops in Shops” program to the Shore in an effort to crack down on underage drinking.
The initiative hits hard by having local police officers working undercover in liquor stores looking for people under 21 trying to buy booze or those of legal age trying to buy it for them.
This summer, 35 shore area police departments are participating — including Atlantic City, Beach Haven, Belmar, Brick Township, Cape May,, Lavallette, Neptune (township and city), the Wildwoods, the Point Pleasants, Seaside Heights, Ship Bottom and Toms River.
During last year’s crackdown, 28 participating law enforcement agencies arrested 211 people.
It’s been used year-round locally, as well — in Fair Lawn, West New York and Jersey City, among other municipalities.
Since the ABC adopted the popular program from the Century Council in 1996, law enforcement has made more than 10,000 related arrests, state authorities said.
Acting State Attorney General John J. Hoffman said the aim, simply, is “keeping the good times safe for our teens and young people in New Jersey.”
Underage drinking kills roughly 5,000 people under the age of 21 each year, the U.S. Department of Health reports.
Four of every 10 are from alcohol-related car crashes. Over the last decade, 650 teen driver crashes were reported during the summer in Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties, Hoffman said.
“If you’re under 21 and you’re planning to try and get into a bar or nightclub this summer, we will be beefing up our efforts to prevent underage drinking,” said Diane Weiss, executive director of the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association (NJLBA). the NJLBA’s Executive Director.
“Our members are well versed in looking for fake IDs, and they know how to spot underage individuals,” Weiss said. “Licensees will be working closely with the local police departments and the ABC throughout the summer months.
“If someone presents a fake ID, we will be taking the appropriate measures to make sure that the individual is not able to purchase or consume alcohol – and that includes calling the police.”
The program is made possible through the ABC with grant money from the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
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