Police give inside perspective on enforcing underage drinking laws

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Community members were treated to inside information about how police enforce underage drinking laws at a Tuesday event in Cape Girardeau.

Volunteer coalition EPIC teamed up with local police officers to share their progress in the battle against underage substance abuse at the organization's Breakthrough Breakfast.

Since 2012, EPIC -- Early Prevention Impacts Community, formerly the SEMO Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition -- has hosted three such breakfasts to encourage community change and involvement in youth substance-abuse issues and prevention, according to the group's project coordinator, Shelly Wood.

"In the past, we've discussed youth synthetic and prescription drug abuse," Wood said. "We want this series to educate the community and really engage them to become more involved in prevention of youth substance issues."

Tuesday's discussion was of underage drinking -- a prevalent issue for college towns such as Cape Girardeau.

Lt. Rick Price and officers Richard Couch and Joey Hann of the Cape Girardeau Police Department talked about the department's efforts to prevent the distribution of alcohol to minors. Couch said one of the department's most proactive methods is alcohol compliance checks.

To perform these checks, officers send trained "youth buyers," ages of 18 and 19, to attempt to purchase alcohol from licensed establishments.

"All they have when they walk in that store is their ID, which clearly indicates they are under 21, the cash we give them to purchase the alcohol and a cellphone to contact us," Couch said. "We're not trying to lie or trick anyone here."

In 2012, these checks revealed 19 violations in Cape Girardeau. Couch said that, of these businesses, the majority were cooperative.

"The management is furious about 90 percent of the time when they learn an employee has sold to someone underage," Couch said. "Store managers are almost always compliant; the problem usually lies with their employees."

The police department also is stepping up interception of fake identities. Twice a month, uniformed officers go to local bars to check the identification of those who appear to be younger than 21. The department also sends nonuniformed officers to work with staff members to check IDs at entrances.

srinehart@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

1913 Rusmar Street, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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