In response to a significant increase in underage drinking in Gwinnett County in 2002, GUIDE began utilizing the Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) model to reduce the number of youth consuming alcohol under age county-wide. GUIDE, working closely with multiple partners in the community, expanded these efforts in 2007 when the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services received a Drug Free Communities coalition grant that provided funding for compliance checks.
Compliance checks help ensure that alcohol retailers check IDs of every customer and do not sell alcohol to those under 21. In order to conduct them, police officers train underage decoys to go into restaurants, drug stores, gas station convenience stores and grocery stores to attempt to buy alcohol. If they are sold or served alcohol, officers then go in and give citations to the employee. Compliance checks “are an important community tool for reducing illegal alcohol sales to minors and to promote community normative change,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Since October 2008, Gwinnett County Police Department officers have conducted approximately two compliance checks a month in unincorporated Gwinnett County and within the City of Grayson. These checks continue to be funded by the Drug Free Communities coalition grant through the Gwinnett Coalition. We later expanded this strategy and started working with the City of Lilburn Police Department in 2013 and the City of Snellville Police Department in 2014 after being selected as a Georgia Alcohol Prevention Project (APP) provider.
When we track compliance checks, we are able to measure the effectiveness of this strategy in reducing commercial access of alcohol to teens and underage young adults. We are pleased to report our latest results!
- From October 2008 when we first began implementing this strategy to September 2015, 2,168 stores were visited in unincorporated Gwinnett County and the cities of Grayson, Lilburn and Snellville. 1,962 stores did NOT sell to the underage decoy, which is a 90% compliance rate overall.
- In the City of Grayson and unincorporated Gwinnett County, the compliance rate steadily improved each quarter between October 2014 and September 2015. It started at 73%, improving to 83% in the second quarter, 91% in the third quarter and 100% during the fourth quarter. Overall, 74 alcohol retailers were visited, 11 of which sold alcohol to an underage decoy. This resulted in an overall compliance rate of 87% for 2014-2015, an increase from 83% in 2013-2014.
- During the City of Lilburn’s compliance checks in March 2015, only two alcohol retailers out of 40 sold to an underage decoy, for a compliance rate of 95%. This is an increase from 92% in June 2014.
- A total of 64 alcohol retailers were checked by police officers in the City of Snellville, with eight selling to a decoy. In 2014-2015, the compliance rate increased from 70% during the first quarter to 95% in the fourth quarter. Snellville’s overall annual compliance rate improved from 68% in 2013-2014 to 83% in 2014-2015.
- Overall, 372 stores were visited in unincorporated Gwinnett County and the cities of Grayson, Lilburn and Snellville between October 2014 and September 2015. Out of these stores, 323 did NOT sell to the underage decoy, which is a compliance rate of 87%. This is an increase from 85% between October 2013 and September 2014.
Thanks to the efforts of local police departments, it is clear that compliance checks are making a difference in Gwinnett County. We look forward to continuing this strategy in order to reduce underage drinking in the upcoming year!