Police Go Undercover For Alcohol Enforcements - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Police Go Undercover For Alcohol Enforcements

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Going undercover to stop underage drinking- Illinois State Police and teenagers are teaming up to see if businesses are selling alcohol to minors. They send the kids into stores and bars to test it out. 

The program has been around for years, but police say the number of stores caught selling is on the rise. They say it's not about busting stores, but the number of kids getting alcohol and then getting behind the wheel. 

According to the Illinois DOT in 2009, 19 underage kids got behind the wheel after drinking and died in a car accident in Illinois. In 2010, it was 11 kids, and 2011, it was ten. 

State police say the numbers get noticeably worse once drivers are of age.  

"One of the hardest things we do as a police officer is respond to a fatal crash where someone underage died because they decided to go out and get something to drink and then drive," MSgt. Lloyd Murphy says. 

While these numbers are going down, police would like to see them change to zero and stop drinking and driving from the start. That means preventing stores from selling to minors.  

Police say they typically check into nine stores in a night, and out of those nine, anywhere from zero to eight stores have been caught selling to minors in one night. 

An underage ID in Illinois is easy to spot because it's vertical, so the sale should stop there. But police say that doesn't always happen.  

"The biggest surprise is that no matter what safeguards are in place, it's up to that actual employee who's going to sell that alcohol to the customer," Special Agent Corey Peck of Illinois State Police says. 

Police say some clerks will get around the law by entering their own birthday into the computer or scanning an of-age ID they have at the register.  

"The negative part of that is people who are underage of 21 may slip through the cracks," Peck says. 

TV6 went along as police checked on 11 stores in Rock Island County. Our undercover teen walked into each store, and came back empty handed. 

"How I do it is if you don't look old enough to be my mom or dad, or grandpa or grandma, then I'm going to ID you," Store Clerk Ciji Burns says. 

Burns checked the teen's ID, and then denied the sale when put to the test: "I looked at him, I'm thinking he looks young so I better ID him." 

While some might argue these operations are unfair, police say there are no tricks involved here. The kids look their age, and use their real ID's that clearly show they're underage. 

"It isn't really that you go on intuition; you pretty much card anybody that's 30-40-20, anything," Mark Chamley says. Chamley also passed when put to the test in our undercover operation. 

Stores that pass the test sometimes give a bonus to their employees. Those that don't can get hit with a $500 fine, Class A misdemeanor, and a court appearance. Some employees are even fired from their jobs, and repeat offenders could lose their liquor license. All to stop one serious problem from turning into something worse.

"It's something if one teenager dies because they got served alcohol and they drove, it's one too many," Murphy says. 

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