Athens alcohol initiative coming to Statesboro

Nadia Dreid

The Youth Alcohol Enforcement Initiative was originally formed in Athens in the late ‘90s to curb Athens’ underage drinking problem.

The Athens-Clarke County initiative is what Statesboro law enforcement will be using as a template for their actions in the future, Corporal Justin Samples, information officer for the Statesboro Police Department, said.

However, the plan will be adapted specifically for Statesboro’s use, he said. It is still unclear how exactly it will differ from the initiative in Athens.

In its original form, the program had five phases:

1. Business Education and Training

This phase would focus on training business owners to self-police in order to avoid breaking laws in the future.

2. Enforcement

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department used an assortment of enforcement techniques, including using underage operatives in stings and running advertisements in local newspapers offering to hire underage purchasers for stings.

The case study on the initiative mentioned that the newspaper ads served as a deterrent in and of themselves.

3. Education

The initiative also focused heavily on education. Efforts to educate youth in local high schools and on University of Georgia’s campus were increased. The police department also encouraged local judges to refer offenders to education courses or counseling in place of prosecution.

4. Legislation

The police department petitioned the county commission for changes to local ordinances. Some of the new ordinances included a juvenile curfew, requiring all servers of alcoholic beverages to be over 21, requiring bars to close by 2 a.m and several others.

5. Notification

The police department took efforts to notify all citizens and business about the changes, using the media as well as the police department themselves and the downtown business authority. The goal was to make sure everyone in the community was aware of the new laws and to prevent law-breaking through ignorance.

Not an “occupying army”

Police chief of the ACCPD at the time of the enforced policy, Joseph Lumpkin, attributes the success of the program in Athens to the steps they took to make sure everyone in the community was involved.

“The program was organized and spearheaded by those whose interest was needed,” Lumpkin said in a question and answer session included in the case study.

A hospitality resource panel made up of local business owners, city officials and other concerned citizens was formed to make sure all interested parties were involved. Lumpkin said that the panel went a long way to create understanding.

It was also important to make sure the community and local businesses knew the police department was not out to get them.

“We have tried to avoid appearing as the ‘occupying army’ in the community,” Lumpkin said. “Enforcement efforts did not target or attempt to sanction the restaurants or businesses that were law-abiding 99 percent of the time.”