Cops in Shops
Cops in Shops is an innovative program that unites law enforcement agencies, beverage alcohol retailers and other community stakeholders in a collaborative effort to prevent illegal underage alcohol purchases and to prevent adults from buying alcohol for minors. This enforcement program promotes community collaboration, responsible retailing, and comprehensive enforcement. It should be integrated into a law enforcement agency’s overall enforcement strategy to prevent underage access to alcohol and underage drinking.
The program places undercover law enforcement officers in retail alcohol outlets posing as clerks or store employees. Program participation among retailers is voluntary. The goal is to catch underage persons who attempt to purchase alcohol or adults who purchase alcohol for minors. Cops in Shops campaigns are most effective when they are highly publicized to educate the public and to deter people from buying alcohol illegally.
The Cops in Shops Program was first conducted in 1992 in Eugene, Oregon through Project Eugene and funded by Responsibility.org. Since then, the program has been implemented across the United States and has been independently evaluated several times with positive results. It was developed primarily for use in “off-premise” establishments (retail outlets, grocery stores, convenience stores) but can be adapted for use in “on-premise” locations (restaurants, bars, taverns).
The program results in a positive impact on communities and promotes a collaborative approach to preventing underage drinking. While research has shown that a majority of underage youth obtain alcohol through family and friends, alcohol retailers also have an important role to play in preventing underage drinking. Experience has demonstrated that collaborations among all community stakeholders yield maximum results for underage drinking prevention.