The UCI Police Department, in conjunction with the City of Irvine Police Department, is attempting to crack down on underage drinking by launching a new Alcohol and Beverage Control Task Force to find and arrest adults who purchase alcohol for underage persons.
Prompted by a $50,000 federal grant, the program is designed to improve training of local and campus law enforcement personnel in dealing with problems of illegal alcohol consumption among minors, especially on campus. The funding will be used toward assisting with undercover operations and providing extra facilities for training.
A similar program to the one established here at UCI has been implemented in San Diego County with satisfactory results. They have succeeded arresting more underage drinkers and in keeping alcohol consumption under control.
Consequently, UCI, along with UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara, has established the program in order to keep illegal alcohol consumption under control.
The program, already four months in effect, is organized by Sgt. Shaun Devlin of the UCIPD. Devlin explains the purpose of the program.
‘Basically, what we’re doing is stopping it at the point of sale,’ Devlin said.
In cooperation with four other agents from the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, Devlin will be coordinating a series of undercover operations over the next year in an attempt to catch minors and abetting adults in the act of purchasing liquor.
These undercover operations will involve setting up police decoys around local Irvine stores, such as liquor and grocery stores, particularly those near the UCI campus. In addition, the ABC Task Force will be providing several mandatory training programs to educate alcohol vendors in screening for underage drinkers.
According to Devlin, the program has been successful in its early stages of inception.
‘It’s been very successful so far, and we’ve made about two dozen arrests. We’ve checked close to 50 establishments to make sure they’re following the rules and checking for underage drinkers,’ Devlin said.
According to UCIPD crime logs, the last time the ABC Task Force assisted in the arrest of people for the crime of furnishing liquor to minors occurred on the night of March 27.
That night, the ABC Task Force was involved in four arrests. Although the exact store location where the arrests took place was not made public, all four arrests were made near the UCI campus. Two of the arrests were made in establishments in the area of 4541 Campus Drive and the other two were made in the area of California Avenue and Campus Drive.
Currently, the ABC Task Force is planning on scheduling two to three undercover operations each month to combat unlawful alcohol consumption in Irvine. Both local and campus law enforcement agencies agree that the prevention of underage drinking will benefit the community by decreasing the number of DUIs and alcohol poisoning emergencies in Irvine.
Because of the potential benefits of this program, Devlin sees the ABC Task Force as an important program in the Irvine community.
‘This is one of those programs that does directly help the community. Not only are we working with laws to combat underage drinking, we are also educating the public about the issues that underage drinking can cause through personal injury and loss of property,’ Devlin said.
According to Lt. Jeff Love of the Irvine Police Department, the crime of underage drinking is categorized as a misdemeanor, which can result in a fine or up to one year in prison.
‘Anything we can do to deter underage drinking, that is really valuable. Without the ABC’s grant funding we wouldn’t be able to do this. It has enabled the police department and the campus police department to work towards a common goal in the community,’ Love said.
Underage drinkers at UCI are unhappy to hear of the new task force on campus, but some are not worried, claiming that the program will never become a complete success.
According to an anonymous first-year engineering student, ‘There’s nothing wrong with drinking, unless you drink too much and act stupid. I think the Alcohol Task Force is a waste, because no matter what, a minor who likes to drink will find a way to get alcohol. I will continue to get alcohol from an adult because I don’t believe I will get caught.’
A third-year social science student agrees saying, ‘I don’t think it will be successful and I don’t think it’s a good idea. People under 21 will drink at a party. They don’t necessarily have to go with someone who’s over 21 to get alcohol.’
However, a fourth-year social science major who has bought alcohol for parties believes that the issue is not with trying to catch underage drinking, but rather with the society.
‘The problem is not necessarily older people handing alcohol to younger people. That is one of the narrow slices of what the major problem is,’ he said. ‘The bigger problem is American culture, where you have young people going out and binge drinking and having drinking parties where they go to the point of being wasted, which is one of the social problems in the United States that we need to address.’
One second-year humanities major does not believe the Alcohol Task Force will be successful because the Alcohol Task Force and underage drinking are the results of the social climate in Irvine.
‘The Alcohol Task Force is stupid and it won’t work. Irvine is boring and students are bored, which is why they drink. In addition, the police are bored, which is why the police are forming this task force. It’s all part of the culture of boredom here at UCI,’ the humanities major said.
However, one third-year social ecology major believes it is beneficial program.
‘I think it’s a good idea because you never know what’s going to happen to the kids. You give them a beer, but what are they going to do after you give it to them?’
Devlin, in contrast to student opinion, believes that this program will be successful. Following this year he wishes to continue ABC operations and receive more funding for this program, despite what students might think.
‘We’ll continue on with our work,’ Devlin said.