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Program targets underage drinkers

January 29, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Hagerstown City Police will target underage drinkers and those who would supply them with alcohol under a new program, Reducing Availability of Alcohol to Minors.

Set to begin in upcoming months, the RAAM project involves distributing posters with anti-drinking messages for display by licensed beverage retailers and wholesalers.

The posters will urge people to report incidents of underage alcohol use, sale or supply by others.

"Our primary goal is to educate with the posters," said Hagerstown Police Chief Dale J. Jones.

Lectures will be scheduled on anti-alcohol abuse topics, he said.

"It will also add to our ability to make juvenile intervention," he said.

Jones said the posters are part of the overall RAAM program started by the Ocean City (Md.) Police Department in 1996 to combat underage drinking during June, a peak beach time.

The project also works toward building better relationships between law enforcement and those who sell liquor, said Jay Hancock, Ocean City Public Information Officer.

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"I believe it has an impact," he said.

In Ocean City, police took the RAAM program a step farther and worked with community leaders who held nonalcoholic activities, he said.

They also provided licensed beverage retailers and distributors, with information on ways to more easily detect and compare false identification

"False IDs get more sophisticated each year," said Hancock.

Hancock said other law enforcement agencies in Maryland have adopted the RAAM program as well.

The program has been so successful that the number of citations issued by the department for underage drinking violations increased from 700 in 1995 to 2,800 in 1996. In 1997, 3,200 such citations were issued. Statistics for 1998 were unavailable.

"I think the lesson is beginning to be learned that it is more difficult to buy alcohol underage than it was previously," Hancock said.

"It's not 100 percent but it helps with noise and disorderliness and impacts the general behavior for people under 21," he said.

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