Gamedays face underage drinking

Gamedays+face+underage+drinking

Jennie Kushner

On a typical game day, the Tuscaloosa Police Department has 160 officers patrolling around the stadium and 60 officers on The Strip, said TPD public information officer Brent Blankley.

Despite tight security, underage drinking still happens.

Seven of the 27 daily office reports accounted by the University of Alabama Police Department for the weekend of the Florida game were known drinking offenses. The other 20 may or may not have involved alcohol.

“The bars are under TPD jurisdiction, although UAPD supports TPD in their efforts on The Strip and the area surrounding The Strip,” said UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen.

Blankley said TPD issues citations for anyone caught drinking underage. The person would then be charged with a minor in possession.

Blankley added that, depending on the citation, the person charged may or may not be arrested.

“It depends on the situation. If the person is sober, being arrested is at the officer’s discretion,” he said. “You will be issued a citation with a court date and, by signing the citation, your signature then becomes your own bond.

“If an underage person is caught drunk, you will be arrested and placed in jail until you are sober,” Blankley said.

Having an open container is illegal even on game days, Blankley said.

The Alabama Beverage Control Board reported in their 2009 annual report 2,712 alcohol-related criminal cases in the state.

The ABC Board controls alcoholic beverages throughout the state through controlled distribution, licensing regulation, law enforcement and education, according to their annual report.

The report noted that the ABC Board’s goal is to maintain a safe, reliable and efficient distribution network of controlled products while maintaining an extremely professional level of public safety programs to insure responsibility in the distribution, possession and consumption of products.

ABC has officers who can enter a bar at any time to check for underage drinking.

“Those are actual ABC Board officers that enter the bar,” Blankley said. “The TPD works with the ABC Board, however.”

Security guard Xavier Sephus said that, with the influx of people on game day, there are lot more distractions. Sephus is an employee of Stand Alone Security, a company that provides guards and bouncers for many Tuscaloosa bars.

“As a bouncer, you have a lot more responsibilities as far as paying attention. You have to be very alert, and you have to be very good at paying attention to detail,” Sephus said.

Sephus said if an underage person enters the bar due to a good fake ID, neither the bar nor the bouncer is held responsible.

“We are not trained in classes to catch a fake ID, but we are given the tools to detect a fake ID,” he said. “The person who used the ID would get in trouble.

“It’s not like bouncers are police officers. We are not recognized by the state,” he said.

Blankley said it is illegal for a minor to have a fake ID in possession.

Blankley would not comment on how to detect a fake ID, but said police officers can call in a driver’s license to see if the birthday is altered.

The BP gas station on The Strip said they were unable to comment on underage drinking.

Corario Eatmon, a fifth-year senior majoring in criminal justice, works for SAS also. He said game day encourages more drinking in general.

“On a regular day you usually don’t have to deal with many situations. People out are the typical college kids who know how to act,” he said. “On game day you have to deal with people from out of town; they usually get more belligerent and they are mad because their team lost.”

Eatmon said this calls for tighter security. He said he thinks underage drinking isn’t as big of a problem in Tuscaloosa as compared with other college towns.

“Any place you go, if you’re working [at a bar], you are not going to see everything,” Eatmon said. “There are going to be kids that are going to drink underage. It’s just a fact. If you catch it, good for you – if not, better luck next time. That’s all the bars can really do.”