The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday March 25th

Local retailers caught selling alcohol to minors

During a sting operation conducted last week, officers from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough caught six retailers who willingly sold alcohol to minors.

Followed by several undercover officers, three volunteer underage buyers — college students from a local community college criminal justice program — went to 31 stores across the county and attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages on March 8.

Nine Hillsborough sellers were checked and citations were issued to clerks at Steve’s One Stop, Eagles 5, and Food Lion for selling to an underage buyer.

Nine sellers in Carrboro were checked and citations were issued to clerks at TJ’s Campus Beverage, Food Lion, and Harris Teeter for selling to an underage buyer.

Thirteen sellers were checked in Chapel Hill and no citations were issued, Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton said.

Last year, several patrol officers and the ALERT team issued 18 citations to retailers and clubs that sold alcohol to minors in Chapel Hill, down from 39 citations in 2010, according to Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill police department.

Some sellers were repeat violations. It was the fourth citation for TJ’s Campus Beverage and the third citation for Carrboro’s Harris Teeter since 2010, according to a press release.

“If the stores ask for ID then the buyer shows them their valid (underage) ID,” Hampton said. “There’s no trickery to this.”

The sting is part of a larger effort of preventing underage access to alcohol, which declined since the formation of the Alcohol Law Enforcement Response Team in 2009.

ALERT’s efforts extend to reacting to noise complaints and property damages where alcohol might be involved.

Lt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro police department said three out of nine retailers violating the law is a high failure rate.

“Any gas station, bar or supermarket has to have an ABC permit to sell alcohol, train their employees to verify ID properly and know when employees should refuse to sell to somebody,” he said. “All it takes is the employee to be vigilant.”

Despite focusing most of their effort on enforcement, ALERT officers said that a strong education is key to preventing underage drinking.

Hampton said the police support organizations like the Orange Partnership and the vehicle injury prevention program to help make young people aware of the dangers of drinking.

The program, which is coming to Orange High School in April, aims to educate children about impaired driving and vehicle injury prevention.

Being in a culture that promotes drinking as part of college life, officers said the biggest challenge is changing the students’ mindset.

“It might not seem like a big deal to drink at 19,” Atack said. “But if you look at the amount of money spent on alcohol and its residual effect, it ties to a bigger problem.”

Among 74 alcohol-related charges in Chapel Hill last year, 14 charges were related to crimes such as fraudulent IDs, drug possession, larceny and battery, according to police reports.

“Our challenge is to work with the University, local law enforcement and the community to develop a solution to try and change certain behaviors,” Chapel Hill Police Spokesman Josh Mecimore said

On campus, students are seeing increased efforts to educate and prevent underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

Students who receive an alcohol citation must participate in Tarheel BASICS, a preventive alcohol abuse intervention that began five years ago.

“Students who have returned have drank alcohol less often and less quantity-wise when they do choose to drink,” health educator Jenifer Zanzonico said.

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