Underage drinking prevention continues to be a priority in Gwinnett County and Georgia. In 2019, 14.7% of 12th-grade students and 5.7% of 8th-grade students in Gwinnett County reported having at least one or more drinks of alcohol in the past 30 days.
The good news is the percentage of 30 day alcohol use has decreased from where it was several years ago, and we owe that to the collaborative prevention efforts here in the county. One of the collaborative efforts that we want to highlight is with our partners at the Gwinnett County Police Department, City of Lilburn Police Department and City of Lawrenceville Police Department.
We all know how important it is to prevent alcohol sales to those under 21. Our partners at the police departments do, too. That’s why they conduct compliance checks – to make sure retailers follow current laws and ordinances, check IDs and don’t sell alcohol to teens and underage young adults. Underage decoys visit local restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores and drug stores to attempt to buy alcohol. If the employee does not ask for and check their ID and sells or serves alcohol to the decoy, then the employee receives a citation from the police officer or detective.
Conducting compliance checks is an effective environmental change strategy because it helps decrease the probability of employees selling alcohol to those under 21 by keeping the retailers in check. It also increases the chances of employees checking IDs, so they do not receive a citation. This is known as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) change strategy, Changing Consequences.
From October 2020 to March 2021, these local police departments made a combined total of 251 visits to alcohol retailers to ensure that safe alcohol sales are occurring. The Gwinnett County Police Department detectives made 180 visits to alcohol retailers in unincorporated Gwinnett County, and 45 sold to the underage decoy, which is an overall compliance rate of 75%. In the City of Lilburn, the compliance rate was 78%, which included 50 visits to retailers and 11 of those selling to the decoy. In the City of Lawrenceville, the compliance rate was 71%, which included 21 visits and six those selling to the decoy. Because of the commitment of the local police departments to conduct these checks on a regular basis, the county is able to maintain a higher compliance rate overall. This means that the majority of retailers in Gwinnett County are following underage alcohol sales laws, checking IDs and helping reduce retail access of alcohol to those under 21.
In appreciation of our partnership with the local police departments and the work they do to prevent underage drinking, we give our thanks to the dedicated detectives at the Gwinnett County Police Department, City of Lilburn Police Department and City of Lawrenceville Police Department. Their hard work ensures the success of our underage drinking prevention efforts. Through this initiative, we are able to work together to make a positive impact in Gwinnett, encouraging safer and healthier communities.