Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories



Texas – August 30, 2002



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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.


On The Line ?

Underage Drinking in a Border Town

Brownsville, Texas, has developed an innovative program to address its underage drinking issues. By combining education with enforcement, local police have significantly reduced cross-border drinking traffic among youth. 

Brownsville sits on the U.S. border with Matamoros, Mexico, where the drinking age is just 18 years. Texas has strict zero tolerance laws for underage drinking, but most young people in the State are unaware of these laws. This leads many minors to believe that they can dodge Texas?s jurisdiction by going to Mexico to drink. Matamoros had as many as 24 bars within walking distance of the U.S. border, all catering to cross-border traffic. Compounding the situation, many of the bars in Matamoros did not check identification, permitting even the under-18 crowd access to alcohol. The consequences of this phenomenon were predictable: on the Mexican side, violence and sexual assaults were all too common, and on the U.S. side, traffic crashes and other alcohol-related incidents were frequent. 

Tired of seeing drunken children stumble across the border in the wee hours of the morning, local law enforcement decided to address the problem. Using funds from Weed N? Seed, a coalition of law enforcement agencies began policing the border. The coalition included Brownsville Police Department, Brownsville Independent School District Police, Cameron County Sheriff?s Department, and Texas

Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), as well as the normal U.S. Customs detail. Beginning at 9 p.m., the officers monitor outgoing traffic, and make certain that youth leaving for Mexico are aware of the legal consequences for returning intoxicated. In the course of these operations, the officers also turn back children too young to cross alone, sometimes as young as 13 and 14. 

Around midnight, the officers switch to in-bound traffic, and talk to every person returning to the United States. The officers arrest 17- to 20-year-olds they find under the influence, and take into custody anyone younger than 17 years. Under State law, minors (younger than 17 years) can only be released from custody by a parent, making such detention very awkward. 

The benefits for Brownsville have been tremendous. In just 2 years, the number of young people trying to cross the border has gone from thousands on a given weekend night to just hundreds, and many are not from the Brownsville area. With this reduction in cross-border drinking, the city has seen a decrease in fights, traffic crashes, and other alcohol-related incidents. Only six bars remain in Matamoros; the rest closed for lack of business. Through a simple program of vigorous prevention and enforcement, Brownsville has made a significant dent in underage drinking in their community. 


more information, contact Elizabeth Limon Garza of Cameron County Juvenile Probation at 956-548-7011, or Andrea Morrozoff of TABC at 512-206-3431.


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