BELMAR – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa gathered in Belmar today with state and local officials, as well as members of the liquor and prevention industry to outline his plans to stop underage drinking on the Jersey Shore.
“We all look forward to soaking up the fun of the Jersey Shore this summer, but we’re focused today on a serious mission: keeping the good times safe for our teens and young people,” Chiesa said. “Simply put, I consider underage drinking a threat to the health and well-being of our youth in New Jersey.”
The keystone of the Shore efforts is the “Cops in Shops” program, which is run by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“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. The New Jersey Cops in Shops program is recognized nationally as a successful program.
“One Shore teenager told us that it was common for her and her friends to wait outside a liquor store for a sympathetic adult to buy them alcohol. She called this ‘Going Fishing,’” Chiesa said. “My message for those teens and adults of a similar mind is this: Simply don’t do it.”
Since its inception in 1996, nearly 10,000 underage persons and adults have been arrested in New Jersey as a result of the Cops in Shops initiative. Last summer, 246 people were arrested through the Cops in Shops summer program, up from 154 in 2010. This summer, 30 Shore police departments are participating in the program, with approximately $61,000 in funding provided by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“Underage drinking is at the top of the ABC’s priority list,” Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre said. “When Cops in Shops began 16 years ago, only six law enforcements agencies participated. The effective efforts of our local law enforcement partners, who help us combat this real problem, have been the key to this programs’ growth.”
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.
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