Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories



Massachusetts – April 30, 2003



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The OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative supports cooperation between community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned citizens to change local ordinances and enforcement practices.


Innovative Enforcement in Massachusetts

Over the past 2 years, the Massachusetts

Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) has implemented innovative

programs to combat underage drinking and other alcohol-related violations.

Massachusetts? ABCC has jurisdiction over alcohol laws for the entire

State. In 2000, the ABCC?s staff was reduced to zero, eliminating

statewide enforcement of alcohol-related laws. When the Legislature found

out about these cuts, it passed a bill restoring the staff to its previous

strength?plus an increase to 14 investigators over 2 years.

Under the leadership of Chief Investigator Ted Mahony, these investigators

began implementing innovative and proactive enforcement strategies across

the State. Where underage drinking was a concern, they began surveillance

operations, fake ID checks, and compliance checks?of which the ABCC

averaged 120 per week. These programs have yielded significant results

since their inception. In particular, compliance checks have seen an

8-point drop in violations, from 18% to 10%, over 2 years. The ABCC

estimates that nearly 200 townships and cities in the State would need to

hire additional full- or part-time police officers to do the work of their

14 full-time, Statewide investigators.

According to Chief Mahony, outlet-based surveillance operations are their

most effective program. Unlike most similar programs, these operations

target adults as well as minors attempting to purchase alcohol; while one

officer works inside the outlet, another will watch the parking lot for

possible third-party transactions or other illegal activity. With this

technique, the investigators have prevented many adults from purchasing

alcohol for minors. In college towns, the investigators alert campus

police when they suspect adults are purchasing alcohol for a house party.

The surveillance operations also extend to bars, where investigators serve

as doormen to check for false IDs. Using this technique in an effort

called Operation Safe Spring, the ABCC checked nearly 1800 IDs and charged

47 adults with procuring alcohol for minors. A similar operation, Safe

Summer, saw 1219 IDs checked and 30 adults charged with procuring for


In addition to their innovative enforcement programs, the ABCC works

proactively to prevent problems. ?I try to educate the licensees,? says

one ABCC investigator. When they visit a new licensee for the first time,

investigators will give the owners and managers tips on detecting fake

IDs, preventing sales to minors, and other ways to avoid breaking the law.

According to investigators, licensees appreciate the help, and it reduces

future problems.

Massachusetts? ABCC has shown its commitment to reducing underage drinking

through innovative and proactive efforts. Unfortunately, the ABCC?s

investigative staff faces layoffs in the current budget environment; the

agency?s ability to continue its innovative work is again in the hands of

the Legislature.


more information,

, please contact Ted Mahony at [email protected] or 617-438-5628, or Jamie Binienda at

[email protected] or 508-856-0536.



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Underage Drinking: Success Stories
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