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Cops in Shops Programs

Description of Strategy

A “Cops in Shops” program places undercover law enforcement officers, alcohol beverage control (ABC) agents, or inspectors in off-premise stores that sell alcohol. Officers issue citations or make arrests for underage purchase, attempts to purchase, and related violations, including citations for adults who purchase alcohol for underage youth—according to the current law of the jurisdiction where the program is in operation. Training is provided to both law enforcement officials and retailers.

In this program, law enforcement officers and inspectors cite or arrest underage youth who attempt to purchase or purchase alcohol illegally. This program also emphasizes the use of publicity as a continuous deterrent to potential underage buyers. Store posters, stickers for cold case storage areas, brochures, posters on buses or in subways, buttons, and televised public service announcements remind young people that if they attempt to buy alcohol illegally then they may be dealing with an undercover law enforcement officer or alcohol inspector. “Cops in Shops” was originally developed in Delaware, but later was enhanced, packaged, and promoted nationwide by the Century Council—a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and illegal underage drinking (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001). Thirty-two New Jersey police departments instituted “Cops in Shops” programs in the summer of 2017 (Ray, 2017).

Discussion of Effectiveness


No evidence regarding the effectiveness of "Cops in Shops" programs was located (updated September 2017).


Strategy Description

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2001). Community How To Guides On Underage Drinking: Enforcement. Retrieved July 23, 2012.

Ray, D. (2017) Cops in Shops: New Jersey Program Cracks Down on Underage Drinking. NBC10 Morning Buzz.

Evidence Base

No published literature

Futher Reading

Cops in Shops (web page). (n.d.). Available at:

Montgomery, J. M., Foley, K. L., & Wolfson, M. (2006). Enforcing the minimum drinking age: State, local and agency characteristics associated with compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs. Addiction, 101(2), 223-231. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01328.x.

National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives. (2001). Community how to guides on underage drinking prevention: Guide 5, Enforcement. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Available at: