TRENTON – School may have been out this past summer but scores of people attempting to flout New Jersey’s drinking laws learned a tough lesson thanks to the state’s Cops in Shops program targeting underage drinking… The summer enforcement initiative resulted in 252 arrests, Alcoholic Beverage Control Acting Director Wesley Geiselman announced today.
A record 39 shore towns from Atlantic Highlands to Wildwood this year participated in the program that employs undercover cops to crack down on underage drinkers and those who buy alcohol for them.
“This year marked another successful collaboration between the Division and the local towns to curb the sale of alcohol to those not old enough to drink,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “Those tempted to break the law should be aware that law enforcement is watching.”
Now in its 19th year, the Cops in Shops program is funded each year by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. This past summer $81,000 in grants were received by towns who used the money to pay local police to work undercover in participating retail locations. Law enforcement officers either posed as store employees or were positioned outside the establishment to apprehend lawbreakers attempting to purchase alcohol for underage drinkers.
The program ran from May 23 through September 15.
A similar crackdown aimed at underage drinking in New Jersey’s college towns ran from December 1, 2014 through June 15, 2015. Dubbed, the College Fall Initiative, the program allotted $65,000 to 20 towns and resulted in 164 arrests. The 2015-16 College Fall Initiative will begin December 1 and run through June 15.
“The Cops in Shops program is an innovative way to put watchful eyes in the places where underage drinkers can be found year-round,” said Acting Director Geiselman. “We will continue to utilize this important tool in our efforts to combat underage drinking.”
The Cops in Shops program was designed by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (formerly known as the Century Council), a national not-for-profit organization funded by distillers, which is committed to fighting underage drinking.
As part of the program, retail outlets displayed 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 following towns participated in the 2015 Cops in Shops summer program:
Atlantic County: Absecon, Atlantic City, Brigantine, Egg Harbor Township, and Galloway; Cape May County: Avalon, Lower, North Wildwood, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, and Wildwood; Monmouth County: Atlantic Highlands, Belmar, Eatontown, Lake Como, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean; Red Bank, Spring Lake Heights, and Union Beach; Ocean County: Barnegat, Beach Haven, Berkeley, Brick, Harvey Cedars, Jackson, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lavallette, Long Beach, Manchester, Ocean, Ocean Gate, Pt. Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Ship Bottom, and Toms River.
The following towns participated in the 2015 College Fall Initiative:
Atlantic County: Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township; Bergen County: Mahwah, Northvale, Teaneck; Camden County: Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, Stratford; Essex County: Livingston, South Orange; Gloucester County: Glassboro; Mercer County: Ewing, Princeton; Middlesex County: South Brunswick, Woodbridge; Monmouth County: Eatontown, Ocean Township; Morris County: Morris Township; Ocean County: Lakewood; Passaic County: Wayne.
Charges for providing alcohol to underage patrons are disorderly persons’ offenses, and penalties include fines of at least $500. Charges of underage drinking are also disorderly persons’ offenses, and penalties include fines as well as suspension of drivers’ licenses.