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Chapter 5
Working with Law Enforcement



In many states ABCs are synonymous with alcohol law enforcement. In other states, alcohol law enforcement may be the responsibility of another agency or solely locally based. Whether the ABC is directly involved with enforcement or not, they can assume a significant role.

The ABC is typically responsible for the regulating and licensing authority under which the alcohol licensees must operate. The ABC is often responsible for enforcing and investigating licensee citations. This interaction, whether inter or intra-agency, can provide support for effective enforcement in a variety of ways.

First, ABCs can assure that regulations and policies related to enforcement provide the appropriate authority and tools for effective enforcement of alcohol laws. Second, the ABC can provide training to all enforcement authorities that have responsibility for alcohol laws that will result in effective and consistent enforcement. Third, the ABC can assist enforcement with implementing innovative approaches to alcohol law enforcement that supports community policing and prevention activities that ensure compliance of alcohol laws through a balance of enforcement and cooperation. These programs include working with retailers, community, colleges, schools and others to raise awareness and take actions that ensure compliance with alcohol laws.

Consistent law enforcement is critical to the reduction of dangerous and underage drinking, however, it is not enough. Law enforcement activities should also be done in concert with education and prevention efforts. It is critical for law enforcement officers to be members of community coalitions and projects. Officers should be considered key stakeholders in the coalitions. They provide the necessary information and statistics on the reality of underage drinking and alcohol abuse in a community.

The public needs to be aware of the problems associated with dangerous and underage use of alcohol and recognize that efforts are needed to curb the problem. Community enforcement resources are a key component in changing community norms.

It has been said that the best enforcement of the law is by concerned citizens. When community members understand the reasons and need for specific laws, voluntary compliance with the laws increases. Therefore, a significant task of these agencies should be the education of the community.

Many enforcement agencies have public awareness and educational awareness outreach programs. These programs often are in need of materials and updated information to supplement public and school programs. The ABC may develop materials and provide information to the programs and presenters that enhance and supplement their activities.

The ABC can also partner with law enforcement during special enforcement waves such as You drink and drive…You lose., Booze it/Lose it, and other mobilizations. Special enforcement initiatives targeting establishments should be shared with the ABC. Cooperation between enforcement and the ABC improves working relationships between agencies and shows the public that consistent efforts are being made to prevent underage drinking.


Compliance Checks Using Youth

To deter alcohol retailers from supplying alcohol to youth, a policy should be in place to permit the use of youth to perform compliance checks. With their parent’s permission, trained older youth (under 21) are employed to attempt to purchase alcohol as a means of enforcement. Statistics provided by states that do utilize compliance checks confirm that they are a very effective method of reducing the number of retailers who supply to minors, thereby reducing their access to alcohol. This method of enforcement gives retailers the necessary incentive to comply with the state’s law regarding the sale of alcohol, given that their next customer could be part of a compliance check. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) has developed a detailed document to assist in the development and implementation of compliance checks.


(Contact information, see Appendix A)


Cops in Shops®

Cops in Shops is a program from The Century Council, an organization that fights impaired driving and underage drinking and is supported by America’s leading distillers. The program was established in 1991 and is now operating successfully in 39 states. It is a cooperative project between beverage alcohol retailers and police departments. Undercover officers are randomly placed within participating retail stores to deter illegal purchases by minors and outside the store to deter other individuals from buying alcohol for minors.

The program creates partnerships between licensees and enforcement officers and increases community awareness of the underage drinking situation. Training for the licensees and officers is a component of the program. (See CD-ROM – Appendix O)

As additional deterrents, the Cops in Shops Program uses billboards, posters, literature, radio and newspapers to alert the public that undercover police will pose as employees in local establishments.


(Contact information, see Appendix A)

The Century Council


Cops in Shops - Photo of Police Shield


Implement a Toll-Free
Underage Drinking Hotline

In an effort to reduce underage drinking and create safer and healthier communities, a toll-free hotline can be implemented.

In Pennsylvania, 1-888 UNDER 21 is a toll-free hotline to report any underage drinking activities. This environmental initiative helps youth deal with peer pressure. Concerned youth or adults can place an anonymous call to report any underage drinking activities. Examples might be an underage drinking party or an establishment that is serving to minors. This line works similarly to that of Crime Stoppers. It is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The toll-free hotline can be published in newspapers, newsletters, on billboards along the highway or on the sides of buses. It can also be displayed as a public service message on a movie screen before the main feature begins.


Keg Registration

Keg registration will help reduce underage access to alcohol and to help prevent the tragedies associated with underage drinking.

While most vendors currently register kegs through rental fee deposits, under the proposed statute, vendors would be required to record the keg purchaser's name, address, telephone number and driver's license number, along with the address at which the keg is to be served. Keg identification numbers will also be issued and recorded, much like license plates on cars, but nearly impossible to remove. Furthermore, keg purchasers must sign a form acknowledging that they understand the penalties for serving underage drinkers. Every retailer will have visible signs informing the public that it is illegal to supply alcoholic beverages to youth. In addition, if police are called to a disturbance or party where underage youth are consuming alcohol served from a keg, the keg identification number can be used to determine who supplied the keg and appropriate sanctions can be imposed, whether the responsible party is an individual adult or a retailer. Registration information can be entered into a central database accessible by police or by Liquor Control Enforcement agents.

These simple steps can be effective in deterring sales to underage youth or adults who supply alcohol to underage youth.


(Contact information, see Appendix A)


Sobriety Checkpoints

At sobriety checkpoints, law enforcement officials evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment at certain points on the roadway. Vehicles are stopped in a specific sequence, such as every other vehicle or every fourth, fifth or sixth vehicle. The frequency with which vehicles are stopped depends on the personnel available to staff the checkpoint and traffic congestion.

Well-publicized checkpoint programs educate those passing through the checkpoint and the general driving public that impaired drivers will be caught.

Seasonal increases in alcohol and drug use help local agencies target their enforcement efforts. Sobriety checkpoints provide law enforcement officials with effective tools for removing impaired drivers from roads and highways. They also are a deterrent to people who might choose to drive after drinking by increasing the risk of arrest when the checkpoints and patrols are properly publicized.


(Contact information, see Appendix A)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)


Nuisance Bar Program

The Nuisance Bar program was initiated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to deny license renewal to those establishments that abuse the license privilege by infringing upon the quality of life in a community. The goals of the program are to foster an environment of peace and safety within communities, to educate licensees to be responsible operators and to provide relief to local law enforcement officials faced with the problem licensee. (See CD-ROM – Appendix P)

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