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WARREN POLICE Targeting underage drinking



Published: Fri, May 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The grant covers the costs of officers working in stores that sell alcohol.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- If you're younger than 21 and thinking about buying alcohol in the city, think again.

The clerk behind the counter at your neighborhood convenience store or drive-through might be a city police officer.

The police department received a $9,918 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety/Governors Highway Safety Program for a Cops in Shops program. The program targets underage purchases of alcohol.

The grant will cover the costs of officers working overtime in liquor establishments beginning Saturday, said Capt. Tim Bowers.

He said the grant is another arm of the traffic enforcement aimed at Trumbull County because of its high number of alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Law enforcement agencies in the county also started a DUI Task Force to combat the problem.

"It's part of the effort to keep impaired drivers off the streets," Bowers said.

This marks the first year Warren has had the Cops in Shops program. Officers will issue summonses to offenders to appear in court.

Keeping a record

They will complete activity logs to determine the number of times adults try to buy alcohol for underage users, the number of times people aged 18 to 20 try to buy alcohol, the number of times juveniles try to buy it, the number of fake identification cards used and the number of people who think about making the purchases but change their minds.

"If you're under 21 and you try to buy alcohol, you'll be arrested," Bowers said. "If you buy alcohol for someone under 21, you'll both be arrested."

Some officer behind the counter will be working alone, while some might be stationed outside.

A person convicted of a first offense could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be fined $1,000.

The program will continue until the money runs out. Bowers said he'll apply for the grant again next year.

Stores working with the police in the program will receive literature about how to spot fake identification. Warning signs will be posted informing customers a store is participating in the Cops in Shops program, Bowers said.

Retailers won't be cited while the officer is on duty.

"Our goal is that no one will sell to kids," he said.

Some proprietors might reason that if they don't sell to underage users, the store down the street will, Bowers said.

"If nobody does it, it works best for all of us," he said.

dick@vindy.com




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