Stores seeing more attempts at underage alcohol buys - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Stores seeing more attempts at underage alcohol buys

June 15, 2007

Albany -- Convenience store clerks and owners say underage kids trying to buy alcohol continues to be a problem. Many of them use very realistic phony I.D.'s.

But prosecutors and store workers agree tough laws and undercover stings have helped cut back on underage drinking in Albany.

Woodall's store clerk Melissa Williams says she's seeing a lot more people under the age of 21 trying to buy beer from her cooler. Williams said "summertime all of the young guys come in at night an they try so hard to get beer, and they know they are not of age."

Wright Woodall says most store clerks in town demand I.D. to buy alcohol.  Now many underage buyers are producing very good quality fake I.D.'s. Woodall said "they are pretty good at making them look real. And that's the biggest problem. That's how most of these teenagers are buying alcohol."

But prosecutors say they are seeing less cases of underage drinking, and credit tough Albany laws and training for store clerks selling alcohol for making the community safer. Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges said "there is no question. I think the awareness of underage drinking is higher in Albany and Dougherty County that it is in a lot of other places."

Law enforcement undercover sting operations in Albany started in 2003, with many clerks arrested for selling alcohol to underage officers. Clerks now must undergo city training and certification in order to sell alcohol, and have to wear their ABC Badge at all times to prove they have had the training.

After more than four years of the crackdown, store owners say those stings are welcome. Woodall said "I think it's a good thing. I wish they did it more often."

Williams says clerks know they could go to jail, and that makes them more careful about requiring I.D. Williams said "we have to go down. We have fines, and we can do jail time also.  Makes us think twice."

D.A. Ken Hodges says those undercover checks have worked well, and will continue. Hodges said "Oh absolutely. We are going to continue them as long as I'm District Attorney, and hopefully for many years. I hope we never quit doing it."

Williams agrees, saying Albany is safer because store clerks are working harder to keep alcohol away from underage drinkers. Williams says most people over 21 are used to showing identification when buying alcohol now and don't mind being carded.

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