Preventing Underage Alcohol Purchases

There will never be enough additional Alcohol Law Enforcement agents hired to prevent underage alcohol purchases, says an official of the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agency. That's a tacit acknowledgement that the problem can never be solved by hiring ever more agents. 1

On the other hand, Alaska has thought creatively and implemented an economic incentive to reduce underage alcohol purchases. State law now permits an alcohol licensee to post a notice of the fact and to impose a civil penalty of $1,000 on any minor who illegally attempts to buy alcohol in that establishment. A small claims action can be taken against a minor who refuses to pay.

There is now a strong economic incentive to catch underage persons attempting to make an illegal purchase. The employee who confiscates the false ID typically gets a third of the fine, while the licensee keeps the remainder. One bar in Anchorage seizes an average of six IDs per week. The three or four doormen at this establishment who divide the typical $2,000 per week bounty are highly motivated to enforce the law. 2

This law enforcement occurs at no cost to the licensees or to other taxpayers. It is borne entirely by underage minors who deliberately violate the law and jeopardize the licenses of those from whom they attempt to buy alcohol.

Alaska, the last frontier, is at the cutting edge of innovative thinking to solve this difficult law enforcement problem.

References

  • 1. Shepard, Sam. Alcohol panel calls for crackdown. Daily Tar Heel, December 6, 2004.
  • 2. Personal communication from O.C. Madden, III, Loss Prevention Manager of Brown Jug, Inc., Anchorage, AK. Brown Jug developed this concept and promoted its adoption, first in Anchorage and then throughout the entire state of Alaska. To learn more, contact him at 907-563-3815, ext. 223.

Readings

  • Allen, M., et al. Comparing the influence of parents and peers on the choice to use drugs: a meta-analytic summary of the literature. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2003, 30(2), 163-186.
  • Coyne, Tim. Appeals court says bar can sue underage drinkers. FortWayne.com, 6-17-04.
  • Egelko, Bob. Law narrows on minors, alcohol. Adults who buy for them gain defense. San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2004; The case is In re Jennings, S115009.
  • Hanson, D.J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
  • Matthews, Cara. Bill might curb underage drinking. The Journal News, July 5, 2004.
  • National Academy of Sciences and National Institute of Medicine. Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences and national Institute of Medicine, 2003.