Amherst PD going undercover to stop underage alcohol buyers

"Cops in Shops" program taking place over winter and spring

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Amherst Police are going undercover. 22News explains a new program that aims to crack down on underage drinking.

Amherst Police are teaming up with liquor stores to stop minors from drinking. It’s all part of the “Cops in Shops” program. One UMass student told 22News it’s something the town really needs.

“I feel like underage people don’t really know their limits and stuff so yeah I mean they’re not mature enough to know when to stop so there are many risks,” said Fahd Imam, a student at UMass.

Captain Jennifer Gunderson told 22News officers will pose as store workers to find those making illegal purchases. They’ll also go undercover as customers, looking to catch liquor stores selling to minors. One liquor store owner says he encourages the program and hopes he can help make a difference.

“They have been in here already and we are turning around cooperating and we’re assisting them in any way possible to help curb alcohol problems that exist here in Amherst,” said Stephen Chojnack of Russell’s Liquors.

The package store is using new software that scans ID’s and checks holograms, coloring and lettering on the license. Still, one woman told 22News she doesn’t know if the new program will really attack the root of the problem.

“When I was younger I never knew anybody with a fake I-D anyways. I think there’s always someone who’s older who can get the alcohol for them,” said Maureen Bilodeau, who works in downtown Amherst.

Last year, 135 younger people were charged in Amherst for possessing alcohol as a minor. The program starts this winter, and will run through the spring. It’s funded by the Highway Safety division of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

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