WILDWOOD – On Thursday, Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced a comprehensive law enforcement and public awareness effort by the Divisions of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Highway Traffic Safety to combat underage drinking in Jersey Shore resort areas this summer.
“Last year, more than 500 people were arrested in underage enforcement crackdowns,” said Dow. “This year, I am calling on our law enforcement partners to charge these offenders to the fullest extent of the law. By doing so, we will be sending a strong message that underage drinking will not be tolerated in the State of New Jersey.”
Penalties for underage drinking include stiff fines and the loss of a driver’s license for six months.
“We all know that driving is a privilege. Take away that privilege and you’ll get people’s attention,” added Dow.
Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Jerry Fischer added, “Today, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is sending a strong message that underage drinking can have not just legal ramifications, but also life-changing consequences that affect the drinker and all of the people whose lives the drinker may shatter.”
Scores of law enforcement personnel, trauma officials, and alcoholic beverage representatives joined with the Attorney General at a July 1 press conference held in front of the Convention Center in Wildwood.
Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer stressed the potentially fatal consequences of not only underage drinking and driving, but drugged driving. According to Fischer, in 2008, 28,705 individuals were arrested in New Jersey for driving while intoxicated, and of those charged, 2,938 were under the age of 21.
“While we continue to make steady progress in our fight to keep drunk drivers off of our roads, we still have a long way to go if we are to ensure that all drivers, and in particular our newest and youngest ones, remain safe,” Fischer said. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 20. When you add alcohol to a young driver’s inexperience and overconfidence behind the wheel, you have a potentially deadly situation. The programs we are highlighting today will help us in our continuing commitment to both prevent crashes and save lives.”
Fischer also noted that law enforcement is now facing an even more complex problem, and one that is impacting young people, drugged driving. “We know that many young drivers feel that while alcohol is easily detected, the same is not true for drugs,” she stated. “It’s extremely disturbing to think that young people not only believe this, but find this behavior acceptable. Drugged driving is not only dangerous, but deadly, and simply will not be tolerated on New Jersey’s roadways.”
Efforts to keep people from underage drinking include a combination of law enforcement initiatives and public outreach programs.
Law enforcement efforts:
Cops in Shops
Cops in Shops is a program designed by the Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization funded by distillers. 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.
Last summer, 211 people were arrested through the Cops in Shops summer program. This summer, 31 Shore police departments are participating in the Cops in Shops program, with approximately $61,000 in funding provided by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
In addition, 27 police departments, as well as the Gloucester County Prosecutors’ Office, are running year-round Cops in Shops programs and/or Undercover Operations beginning this summer, using funding provided by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control also administers the Cops in Shops College-Fall Initiative. The College-Fall Initiative grant is available to police departments in New Jersey with a college or university either within its borders or in a neighboring community and is aimed at keeping anyone under the age of 21 from drinking alcohol. This program runs from November through June.
Since its inception in 1996, more than 8,000 underage persons and adults have been arrested in New Jersey as a result of the Cops in Shops initiative.
“New Jersey’s efforts to combat underage drinking and in particular the Summer Shore Initiative are to be held up as the gold standard on how to successfully conduct a Cops in Shops program,” said Century Council Traffic Safety Director Ron Engle. “The Century Council is proud of its long standing relationship with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety which includes the New Jersey Divisions of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Highway Traffic Safety.”
We Check for 21
On June 24, more than 400 licensees and establishment employees attended the “We Check for 21” ID training program held at the Wildwood’s Convention Center. This past Memorial Day, 297 individuals were refused the sale of alcoholic beverages in Cape May County because they failed to prove that they were at least 21. Between 2002 and 2010, that number was 3,650.
Public Outreach Efforts:
This past spring, Dow and twelve-time Olympic swimming medalist Dara Torres teamed up to tape a public service announcement talking about the importance of keeping children away from alcohol. The PSA, which is put out by the Century Council, highlighted the need for children to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes staying away from alcohol. The PSA can be viewed at: http://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/downloads/video/AG-Dow_Torres_ALL.wmv
The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control continues its cooperation with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey to educate young people about the dangers of underage drinking.
“The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is once again pleased to work with the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to help get important and life saving underage drinking prevention messages out to the residents of New Jersey through billboard images created by middle school students, which utilize peer-to-peer prevention messages, as well as radio Public Service Announcements to New Jersey parents which bring to light the pressures of underage drinking as experienced by middle school students,” Angelo Valente, the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey said. “It is only by working together that we can get these important messages out and help stem the tide of underage drinking in New Jersey.”
The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey paired up to sponsor two initiatives:
“Listen-Up to the Dangers of Underage Drinking” Radio PSA Program. Aimed at middle school students, the “Listen-Up” program challenged young people to create a script for a 30-second radio public service announcement that talked directly to parents about the dangers of underage alcohol use. The winning students produced and starred in the radio spots, which were produced in English and in Spanish, and will be distributed to stations in the New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia media market. The winners of the English public service announcement were: Helene Horn Blau, Emily Zimmermann and Emily Fusco, each of Cinnaminson, and Alexa Kline of Beverly. The winners of the Spanish public service announcement were: Amanda Zurlo and Valerie Moran, both of Brick.
“Dangers of Underage Drinking” Billboard/Calendar Competition. This statewide initiative is designed to encourage middle school students and their parents to work together to create billboard/calendar messages with the theme “Dangers of Underage Drinking.”
Thirteen winning messages will be featured on a calendar to be distributed to middle schools at the start of the 2011 calendar year. One message will be featured each month, and the grand-prize winning message will be displayed on the calendar’s front cover. Additionally, the grand-prize winning message will be reproduced on highway billboards throughout the state. The grand prize winner is listed below with the finalists:
Grand Prize: Gabriel Ribeiro of Newark.
Finalists: Xavier Newman of South Orange; Kirsten Anastasio of Rosland; Emily Dufner of Short Hills; Katie Gettings of Summit; Mackenzie Nyhuis and Samantha Allen, both of Ringwood; Ileana Guerrero and Kerry Dyke, both of Perth Amboy; Bria Roskowski of Keasbey; Maria Agnese of Bernardsville; Sydney Esteves of Newark; and Clara Marie D. Talban of Belleville.
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