Underage drinking is a public health concern that has garnered increasing national attention. In New Jersey, many communities have begun to put preventive measures in place to deter the many consequences alcohol consumption by minors can generate.
Issues such as depression, suicide, sexual violence, teen pregnancies, motor vehicle crashes, aggression, violence, addiction and death from alcohol poisoning, have become an all too familiar impact of underage drinking.
One community coming together to counteract this problem is the city of West New York, which has recently instituted a program with a unique approach to deter minors from getting alcohol in the first place. The program is called “Cops in Shops”, and since its inception in January 2011, it has had remarkable results.
“Cops in Shops” allows local law enforcement and retail businesses to collaborate on deterring the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 21. It also aims to stop adults from purchasing alcohol for people under the legal age. Officers participating in the program are trained to review Alcohol Beverage Control laws and procedures, as well as pertinent town ordinances.
Plainclothes officers then patrol underage drinking details in liquor stores throughout the town on random evenings. West New York’s Police Lieutenant Edmond Monti explained, “This program is very helpful in curbing underage drinking and those adults that try to purchase for minors.” Six liquor stores have participated in “Cops in Shops” and fifteen police officers are currently a part of the program with arrests made at most assignments.
The Hudson County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community is eagerly anticipating the return of the “Cops in Shops” this summer to further efforts on reducing youth substance use in Hudson County.
Survey shows alcohol easy to get
In 2012, the Hudson County Coalition conducted a school survey with 8th, 10th and 12th graders in the county. Some 57 percent of Hudson County students believe that it is “sort of easy” or “very easy” to get beer, wine, or hard liquor. This past spring the coalition conducted a college campus culture survey and asked underage students to list their favorite places to consume alcohol, and a combination of 30 liquor store vendors, bars, clubs were listed where alcohol could be easily purchased.
These statistics point to an underlying need for increased implementation of strategies which counter this behavior. As recent studies suggest (Hudson CHIP 2007), youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until age 21.
In support of this initiative, the coalition is joining forces with the West New York Police Department and has offered free TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management) classes for WNY liquor license holders and their staff. TAM is a certification class that educates vendors on liability, how to handle intoxicated individuals, and how to spot fake I.D.s.
If you are interested in learning more about a TAM training or about becoming a member of the Hudson County Coalition, please call Karena Malko at (201) 552-2264.