Police survey targets underage drinking

Florida A&M University faculty and students agree the Tallahassee Police Department should take steps to lower the rate of underage drinking in the city.

Thursday Sgt. Dave Ferrell, along with TPD officers and members of the Vision of Manhood, a non-profit organization that seeks to positively reshape the city’s communities, conducted an alcohol survey at 13 local convenience stores.

The survey consisted of two underage volunteers hired by the police department going into a convenient store and attempting to purchase alcohol. Store clerks who did not ask for the proper identification failed the test.

“This test is meant to remind everyone that we are out there and we are watching,” Ferrell said.

Police records show that out of the 13 stores that participated in the survey, employees at four failed to ask for identification. They were arrested and charged with the sale of alcohol to a person younger than 21.

Some faculty members say they believe these random surveys have helped to keep FAMU a “dry campus” (alcohol free), but there is still more that can be done.

“I think doing the surveys are good for FAMU,” said Henry Kirby, assistant vice president and dean of student activities.

“More tests should be done, particularly during the fall season, with students trying to buy liquor for the football games and other similar activities.”

Kirby said he believes making sales is what’s mainly on the minds of store employees who don’t card.

“It’s not surprising that underage aren’t being carded,” Kirby said. “The mighty buck speaks when it comes to selling to college students. Now it pays to check.”

Some students say these surveys are ways to help them become more responsible and do the right thing.

“I think that at this age everybody does it, but it needs to be controlled,” said Arryel Johnson, 24, a graduate student from Tallahassee. “Some of these kids are being irresponsible, wasting their money on something that isn’t making them any smarter, any cooler, and won’t help them in the long run.”

Some students who are underage drinkers are in favor of the survey as well.

“I drink every now and then, but I still feel as though this is something that needs to be addressed,” said Jordon Farrar, 19, a freshman criminal justice student from Miami, “because for some people, drinking is a serious problem that can destroy their future.”

Other students say they believe these tests aren’t effective in settings such as clubs.

“Once I was at the club and they didn’t check my I.D.,” said Ashley Foster, 20, a junior biology student from Pensacola.

“They just handed me a wrist band and let me in.” In cases like these, officers are sent into a club or bar to do what is called a “shoulder tap,” where they stop a random person with a drink who looks to be underage. After asking a series of questions, they ask to see identification.

The consequence for underage drinkers is supposed to be arrest. But Foster said there are inconsistencies in how violators are reprimanded.

“Once I was caught with alcohol at the club, and all they did was take it away from me,” Foster said. “That wasn’t effective at all because all you have to do is send somebody to buy another one.”

In a case where an individual 21 or older buys alcohol for an underage individual, both parties are supposed to be arrested and face charges.