PT. PLEASANT BEACH - Attorney General John J. Farmer, Jr. and Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Jerry Fischer today announced a comprehensive law enforcement effort to combat underage drinking in shore resort areas this summer.
"We are using a combination of public awareness and law enforcement efforts to combat underage drinking in resort towns this summer," Farmer said. "If we are to stem this problem, we must continue to make young people aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse and the impact underage drinking can have on their lives and on the lives of their families and friends. At the same time, we must also let young people know that we will continue our strenuous efforts to enforce the laws against underage drinking."
Director Fischer explained that the effort includes two enforcement initiatives designed to deter young people from purchasing alcohol in package goods stores, bars and nightclubs. Additionally, radio and television public service announcements have been produced to further inform young people about the penalties they can face if they illegally consume alcohol.
"The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is working aggressively to combat underage drinking -- and the tragedies that can result from such behavior -- on a variety of fronts," Director Fischer stated. "Programs such as the ones we are announcing today -- ones that balance public awareness with enforcement -- are critical in our overall effort to stop young people from taking that first drink."
Cops in Shops
According to Fischer, a total of 30 seashore municipalities will participate in the Cops in Shops program this summer. An initiative designed to deter young people from illegally purchasing alcohol in local liquor retail establishments, the program runs through mid-September. Twenty-seven towns received a total of $89,600 in federal money, which is administered by the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety, to run the program during the summer months. In addition, Neptune Township, Red Bank and Middletown Township have received funds from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
Cops in Shops is a program designed by The Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization funded by America's leading distillers, that is committed to fighting underage drinking. Under the program, local police officers work undercover in participating retail locations. Law enforcement officials either pose as store employees or are positioned outside the establishment to apprehend adults who attempt to purchase alcohol for underage drinkers.
Participating towns are:
||Absecon, Egg Harbor Township, Margate
|Cape May County:
||Avalon, Lower Township, Sea Isle City, Wildwood
|| Belmar, Eatontown, Long Branch, Middletown Township, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, South Belmar, Wall
|| Barnegat, Bay Head, Beach Haven, Beachwood, Dover Township, Harvey Cedars, Lakehurst, Little Egg Harbor, Long Beach, Pt. Pleasant Beach, Pt. Pleasant Boro, Seaside Heights, Ship Bottom, Stafford Township
Implemented throughout the state at various times since 1996, the program creates a strong deterrent, Fischer noted, since undercover enforcement officers can be in any store, at any time. Since it's inception, more than 1,450 underage persons and adults who have purchased alcohol for young people were arrested. Approximately 300 individuals were arrested last summer alone, the highest number of seasonal arrests made under the Cops in Shops program.
Underage drinkers and the adults who purchase alcohol for them face a minimum fine of $500 and a mandatory loss of their driver's license for six months.
As part of the program, retail outlets display posters and decals on doors, windows, counter tops, and cold cases warning underage drinkers that a police officer may be working undercover in the establishment. The Century Council provides materials for the Cops in Shops program.
"The Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization funded by America's leading distillers, created the Cops in Shops program in 1992 to help prevent underage purchasing of alcohol. Since its inception, Cops in Shops has been launched in over 40 states. We are proud to be a part of today's re-launch of the program in New Jersey and hope that Cops in Shops continues to prove to be a successful program throughout New Jersey this summer and all year long," said Gary Decker of the Century Council.
"By working closely with the licensed beverage industry, we can maximize our resources for combating underage drinking. Retailers who might otherwise be exposed to liability for underage sales are assisting law enforcement and, law enforcement is much better able to apprehend underage purchasers and send its message of deterrence," Fischer stated. "This initiative focuses on the individual who knows he or she is breaking the law, rather than on the licensee who may, in good faith, believe the person is of legal age."
Under Operation Summer, State Police ABC Enforcement Unit troopers will work undercover in bars and nightclubs in shore resort areas in an effort to apprehend underage drinkers. In place since 1994, the initiative specifically targets licensed establishments that sell alcohol to underage individuals.
"The majority of our bar and nightclub owners are responsible, law abiding business owners who would not knowingly serve an underage individual," Director Fischer noted. "This initiative targets establishments that flagrantly violate the ABC laws by selling to underage persons."
The effort, which began Memorial Day weekend, has resulted in a total of 57 arrests, to date, in shore counties by the State Police ABC Enforcement Unit.
Television and Radio Public Service Announcements
A 60-second radio public service announcement and a 30-second television public service announcement will air throughout the summer to further raise awareness about the consequences of underage drinking.
Produced in cooperation with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, the television announcement details the stringent penalties young people can face if they attempt to illegally purchase alcohol.
Joseph (J.P.) Miele, chairman and founder of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey explained, "All studies point to the fact that adolescent alcohol abuse is the state's number one substance abuse problem. It is for this reason that we are here today to release a public service announcement targeting this crucial issue."
Targeting Drunk Drivers
According to Colonel Peter J. O'Hagan, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the efforts announced today further enhance the state's efforts to rid New Jersey's roads of potential drunk drivers.
"Alcohol is still claiming too many lives on our roadways," said Colonel O'Hagan. "In 1999, 223 alcohol-related deaths occurred along New Jersey's streets and highways. We're here today to remind everyone that drinking and driving is a deadly combination."
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