Cops will soon be in shops

Rebecca Bogler

Local liquor stores and bars alike will soon see new employees as the result of a program the Macomb Police Department has been working on to prevent illegal consumption of alcohol by minors.”It (the program) is about to start in both places. It is one of a number of objectives we have set for the police department to develop and implement this fiscal year,” Macomb Police Chief Steven Williams said. “The goal is to encourage voluntary compliance with both city ordinance and state statute.”

The program, “Cops in Shops,” which was first announced during a Macomb City Council meeting in December and was discussed again by Macomb Mayor Tom Carper after the city recently fined The Ritz for liquor violations.

“I think we are going to use this a little bit in the future with people who are having problems,” Carper said, referring to the problems of underage consumption of alcohol and misrepresentation of age while trying to enter a bar.

This program would place an undercover police officer behind the register in a liquor establishment or at the door carding customers about to enter a bar.

“We intend to work with the Office of the Secretary of State, and its officers will actually be in the shops because they are not known in the community,” Williams said. “We intend to catch them at the door.”

According to Williams, the officers are trained to identify people who are presenting false identification regardless of the offender’s knowledge of the ID information.

“Having police officers do this on occasion may give us a better handle on what type of false IDs are being used,” Carper said.

Since the police department promotes community interaction with the local officers, “Cops in Shops” requires unknown officers to actually perform undercover work.

The Macomb officers will provide the administrative support, back up and do all the work in the event of an arrest, according to Williams.

State law provides for a zero tolerance for consumption of alcohol by persons under 21.

The fine for the purchase, consumption or acceptance of alcohol by a minor is no less than $250 and no more than $750 under the city ordinance. The fines were increased last January in an attempt to deter underage drinking.

Misrepresentation of age with the use of false identification carries the same monetary penalties.

However, state statute provides the police with the option of imposing addiditonal penalties when caught using a fake ID such as the suspension of an offender’s driver’s license.

The program was looked at last May, and since then the police department has examined the benefits of bringing this sort of policing to the community. According to Williams, “Cops in Shops” has been very successful for Champaign, Ill., home of the University of Illinois, and he feels Macomb will share in that success. “We need to encourage simply a sense of responsibility among 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who are beginning, really beginning, to develop,” Williams said.

“More than anything this is an issue of public safety. I wish there was a better way, but the fact is that’s something that you expect your police department to do — to enforce those laws — and that’s what we’re going to do,” Williams said.