'Too young to buy, don't even try'

Despite MTV’s best efforts, officials want to make sure the Jersey Shore isn’t just one big party.

And that’s especially true with regard to the kickoff of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s annual “Cops in Shops” enforcement initiative targeting underage drinking.

From now through Labor Day, in conjunction with other state, county, and local agencies, the ABC will put local police officers undercover inside participating retail locations to pose as liquor store employees, or outside to apprehend adults who attempt to purchase alcohol for underage drinkers.

Cops in Shops is nationally recognized to be successful at curbing the problem and was designed by the Century Council, a national nonprofit organization funded by beverage distillers.

This summer, 28 police departments in shore communities are participating in the program, with $61,000 in funding provided by the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

“Attitudes among some adults and young people about the dangers of underage drinking can range from indifferent to dismissive, making our job that much more challenging,” said ADC director Michael Halfacre<NO1>cq<NO>. “But that’s a challenge we embrace at the ABC because we are committed to preserving the physical and emotional health of the young people in New Jersey.”

In 2012, police arrested 202 individuals during the summertime crackdown. Since the state adopted the Century Council program in 1996, law enforcement has made 10,000 arrests related to underage drinking in New Jersey.

“This summer on the shore, anyone under 21 should know that if you are too young to buy, don’t even try. Cops will be in every place necessary to make sure everyone who buys is of legal age,” said Ralph Blackman<NO1>cq<NO>, president and CEO of the Century Council.

Blackman said the summer Cops in Shops program works hand-in-hand with a similar year-around initiative and another in the fall targeting college campuses in the state.

Towns participating in the crackdown this summer along the shore and elsewhere: Absecon, Avalon, Barnegat Township, Beach Haven, Belmar, Egg Harbor Township, Harvey Cedars, Jackson Township, Lake Como, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lavallette Borough, Long Beach Township, Lower Township, Manchester Township, Neptune Township, Neptune City, North Wildwood, Ocean Gate, Ocean Township, Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant Borough, Sea Isle City, Seaside Heights, Ship Bottom, Spring Lake Heights, Toms River Township, and Wildwood.