Local law enforcement officials are set to launch a new campaign to curb underage drinking and false identification use at area bars and liquor stores, officials said yesterday.

The campaign, known as SUDs, or Stopping Underage Drinking, will feature four specific initiatives to enforce underage drinking laws, Lieutenant Patrick Burke of the Metropolitan Police Department said.

According to Burke, undercover officers will be stationed as bouncers at local area bars where they will be checking identification with the use of “Intellicheck” ID-checking technology, which Burke says can accurately identify false forms of identification.

In addition, undercover officers will perform spot-checks at bars that feature 18-and-over specials aimed at attracting students, Burke said. However, on those occasions, the officers will not be positioned at the entrance but instead inside the establishment.

Students found in violation of liquor laws will face a $300 fine and be detained by MPD officers, Burke said.

Burke said liquor stores that sell to underage individuals will be targeted as well. As the third part of the plan, MPD will send underage students with false identification into liquor stores and arrest employees that either do not check for identification or fail to identify false idenfication.

Finally, MPD will station undercover officers as liquor store employees and arrest underage individuals that attempt to purchase alcohol. As part of this element of the campaign, an MPD officer will also be stationed outside of liquor stores to prevent people from purchasing alcohol for underage people.

Burke said that the plan could begin to be implemented “at any time.”

According to Burke, the plan is part of a city-wide effort to combat underage drinking that has received funding from both city and federal programs.

Bars and liquor stores will be notified in advance when MPD will be present, Burke said.

“We’re trying to be business-friendly as well,” Burke said. “We’re trying to help places that are showing due diligence.”

Burke said many establishments try to prevent underage drinking but cannot tell the difference between real and false identification. According to Burke, there are more than 500 Web sites that sell fake IDs.

“[Fake] IDs are of such good quality, and we’re trying to help [businesses] out,” Burke said.

Students who frequent local bars were upset to learn of the new PD initiative.

“I think it’s completely unfair to do,” said one sophomore. “Everything has been under control recently at bars. I think they should focus on something more important like murder and drugs.”

She also said that if MPD follows through with the plan, she would be less likely to attempt to go to bars.

One freshman said that if he learns students are being arrested, he would hesitate before going to bars on weekends.

Another freshman said that the proposal would not only hamper students, but also bars as well.

“Bars will lose business,” he said. “They’re going to have to have more 18 to party 21 to drink nights, which won’t make as much money.” He also said the campaign would make him less likely to go to bars.

David Nelson, general manager of Rhino’s Bar and Pumphouse on M Street, said it was not in Rhino’s best interest to comment about how the campaign will affect their business.

Nelson did say that Rhino’s would cooperate with MPD whenever possible.

Representatives of several other area bars, including The Tombs, Champion’s, Third Edition and Chadwick’s, were unavailable for comment.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Justin Wagner (COL ’03) said that the proposal could have several unintended effects. Wagner, who chairs the ANC2E Public Safety Committee, said that he wants to make sure that police aren’t targeting only students while ignoring other concerns such as recent increases in robberies and assaults in the area.

“It’s a tough situation … I understand that MPD has to do its job, but the student body should be aware that it’s going on,” Wagner said.

Wagner also said that the initiative could upset relations with Georgetown’s neighbors if more students are pushed into neighborhood house parties.

“Georgetown has to create an on-campus solution where people can drink responsibly,” Wagner said. He said that a recent proposal to create a student-run bar on campus would be an appropriate solution.

Wagner also said that the district should adopt a citation law that would make the penalty for selling alcohol to underage people and buying alcohol while underage equivalent. Currently, Wagner said, those caught buying underage receive a citation and are detained while those caught selling receive only a citation.

The decision by MPD to crack down on underage drinking at Georgetown bars and liquor stores comes a little more than a year after a Washington-area teen was shot to death after a fight at Sports Fans, an M Street bar, and less than a year after Georgetown junior David Shick, 20, died after a fight while returning from a night of drinking at Champion’s. The D.C. Medical Examiner later ruled the death a homicide.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.