STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Prom season is here which causes more concern about under-age drinking. The Starkville Police Department has a controversial program that they believe stops establishments from selling to minors and deters young people from drinking.
According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol is the most commonly used substance by young people. Despite the fact that drinking before age 21 is illegal, in 2011 25% of youth ages 12-20 drank alcohol.
Sargent Shawn Word of the Starkville Police Department says minors are breaking the law.
“They’ll go into drinking establishments, either with fake id’s or get their friends to give it to them. It in and of itself is a violation of the law,” says Word.
Word says they have a program to fight under-age drinking. Minors who were caught drinking assist the department by participating in an under-age drinking sting.
“Certain minors are offered a chance to buy alcohol under age. They will go into establishments with us right outside watching. They go inside with their real ID in the attempt to buy alcohol and if they do, the establishment is issued a citation,” says Word.
Private attorney and Lowndes County Public Defender Gary Goodwin says programs like the one in Starkville may work as long as the proper consent has been established.
“I’ve always sort of had a policy against using people to entice another person to commit a crime but I recognize that that’s a standard law enforcement tactic. It probably would depend on whether or not the person was under 21 but over 18 because they can make their own decisions about whether or not they want to cooperate with the police department. But a minor under 18, is subject to the jurisdiction of the youth court,” says Goodwin.
Minors who assist in the under-age drinking stings will keep a clean criminal record and receive a reduction in court fines. Sargent Word believes the program has had a definite impact.
“I know there’s been some establishments that have changed the entire way they operate because somewhere in the system something failed and a minor was able to get in and buy alcohol. It’s nice to know there are a lot of bars in Starkville alone, that are doing everything they can to make sure they don’t sell to minors,” says Word.
The minimum fine for minors is $250 and their driver’s license can also be suspended.
The CDC says youth who drink alcohol are more likely to have poor grades and abuse other drugs.