Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories




– July 30, 2003



of Problem










With support from the OJJDP

Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative, community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned citizens are working collaboratively to

change local ordinances and enforcement practices.


Big Change in Big Sky Country

Through a comprehensive approach over the last 3 years, the Minor

Alcohol Prevention Program in Billings, Montana, is starting to make a

change in the social norms regarding underage drinking in a State that has

been long known for its lax alcohol laws.

In response to the needs of alcohol merchants, the Identifying Underage

Buyers training seminar was designed and implemented by the Billings

Police Department (BPD) to help alcohol merchants comply with the minimum

legal purchase age law. Through on-going compliance checks, area alcohol

merchants are held accountable for training their employees, implementing

policies and procedures, and learning to refuse the sale of alcohol to


In the last 3 years, BPD has conducted more than 500 compliance checks,

and compliance rates have averaged 80%, an increase from 69% when the

first checks were conducted. They have found that local bars and casinos

tend to have higher compliance rates, whereas grocery and convenience

stores have lower rates of compliance with the minimum purchase age laws.

The Minor Alcohol Prevention Program also assisted in the creation of

Montana?s only Keg Registration Ordinance. The City of Billings began

tracking the sale of all kegs of beer sold at the retail level on July 1,

2002. Details on the responsibilities of the merchants, along with

consequences to comply are outlined in the Identifying Underage Buyers

training that is offered free of charge to all area alcohol licenses. To

date, BPD has not issued any keg registration violations, but they have

started to implement special police operations to check keg registration

compliance rates.

The Minor Alcohol Prevention Program has since joined the grassroots

organization, Montanans United Saving Lives (MUSL), which originated in

Billings to address issues related to minor-in-possession and

driving-under-the-influence legislation. During the January-April 2003

legislative session, MUSL worked with other Statewide organizations such

as MADD to push for passage of two bills: one to reduce the blood alcohol

concentration (BAC) standard for drinking and driving to .08 and the other

to prohibit open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles. Many members

participated in a variety of ways including letter writing, phone calls,

testifying, and having direct contact with State representatives and

senators. Although the open container law did not pass, the .08 BAC law

did. MUSL is now working on compiling a legislative report card.

?Our community has shared success as a result of many people working

together to combat a problem that has a staggering social, economic, and

emotional cost,? stated Lisa Posada-Griffin, Minor Alcohol Prevention

Coordinator. Through a collaborative effort of law enforcement and

grassroots groups in Billings, change is beginning to take hold in


For more information, contact

Lisa Posada-Griffin, Minor Alcohol Prevention

Program at 406-896-8181 or

[email protected].




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