Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses Cracks Down on Underage Drinking

The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control is putting the smack-down on underage drinking, thanks to two law enforcement programs and a big grant from the Governor's Office.

Despite being severely understaffed, DLLC police officers issue an average of 216 underage liquor citations each month, to both alcohol retailers and tipsy teens. DLLC spokeswoman Lee Hill says there have been more than 2,000 cumulative underage drinking citations since May, 2003, when they launched two new programs, TRACE and CUB.

TRACE (Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies) is a rapid-communication system between emergency medical personnel and law enforcement. So if a teenager is shooting doubles of Wild Turkey in some bar that didn't check his ID, and he busts his head falling off the bar stool, the paramedics are going to call the cops. Thankfully, TRACE responses don't happen that often. Hill said there were about 60 last year.

Citations stemming from the department's CUB (Covert Underage Buyer) program are much more common --  797 in 2009. This program sends teens between the ages of 15 and 19 into bars or liquor stores to see if the staff will check their IDs. This doesn't happen randomly -- specially trained CUBs are only sent into establishments as the direct result of a complaint. Hill says that 29 percent of the time, the reported business will sell liquor to the CUB.

But before Valley teens start volunteering to be Covert Underage Buyers, they should know it isn't an open program, and there's absolutely no sipping on the job. Hill says almost all of their CUBs are referred by local law enforcement because they've expressed an interest in the program, and a DLLC officer accompanies the CUB on the mission.
The TRACE and CUB programs may see even more success now that the small department's got a bit more money. With help from a $25,000 Underage Alcohol Enforcement Grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, the nine officers of the DLLC can earn overtime while trying to enforce liquor laws in a state with more than 11,000 liquor licenses.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea