In Stoughton, They Weren’t Buying it (Booze, that is)

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By Kate Sullivan Foley

Thu Dec 3, 2009

Stoughton – Utilizing grant money, Stoughton Police took to the streets last week to deter crimes during the start of the holiday season.

On Tuesday, an army of officers conducted a “shoulder tap program” outside liquor stores in town. Officers teamed with teenagers through the Stoughton Police Explorers program to ensure that adults were appropriately informed of the laws surrounding buying alcohol for minors.

The teenagers, ages 16-18, stood outside the stores while the officers were close by in unmarked vehicles. As an adult approached the liquor store, the teen would ask the adult to buy an alcoholic beverage for them.

If the adult said no, the youth thanked them for being a caring adult and handed them a green card. The card explained the program and its educational purpose.

If the adult said yes, officers joined the teenagers and explained the shoulder tap program. They outlined the criminal consequences the adult would have faced had they continued with their action and been caught.

Purchasing alcohol for an underage person can result in punishment including a year in the House of Corrections, a fine of up to $2,000 or a loss of driver’s license for 180 days.

Of the 107 people approached, only one agreed to purchase alcohol for the minor.

“It was the most successful (program) yet in terms of compliance from the town,” Stoughton Police Executive Officer Rob Devine said.

Because the program was educational and not punitive, the one individual who agreed to make the purchase was not cited for an offense.

Devine said they were able to host the sting because of funding through a grant from OASIS (Organizing Against Substances In Stoughton). A “shoulder tap program” also was implemented during prom season last spring.

Dawn Fontaine, OASIS coordinator, said the funding came from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant. As part of the proposal for the grant, OASIS set a goal of reducing drug and alcohol abuse through various objectives including stopping adults from buying alcohol from minors.

Thanksgiving week is always a good time to issue a reminder of the laws, especially to adults from ages 21-25, Fontaine said.

“They come home from college for the holiday, reconnect with old and often younger friends and end up being talked into buying alcohol for someone who is not quite 21,” Fontaine said.

She was very pleased with the results of the sting.

In addition to reaching so many people, she said, the sting was especially successful because it showed that many young adults are following the laws. There were four adults who initially appeared as though they were going to agree to buy for the teens, then reflected on the decision and ultimately said no, she said.

“They thought about it and made the right choice – that is really great,” Fontaine said.

Police also took to the streets on Wednesday night. This time, the extra four officers were monitoring bar traffic and being readily available to officers on details at various establishments throughout town. The night before Thanksgiving traditionally has been a busy and problematic night, Devine said.

“They managed to maintain a fairly quiet evening,” he said.

Officers were called to The Last Shot at 559 Washington St. to remove an unwanted patron, which was done without incident.

The additional staffing was funded through the last of a community policing grant provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The grant ran out Nov. 30. Funds from the grant also was used for additional officers on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Friday morning, several plain-clothed officers headed to retail establishments throughout town to watch for shoplifters. The department made the effort in conjunction with security departments at several retailers, Devine said.

“It was a way for us to let the business community know that we are there to support them,” he said.

This article was written by admin