Shoulder Tap Enforcement Programs

Description of Strategy

The “Shoulder Tap” is a method minors use to obtain alcohol from social sources. In this method the minor will stand outside of an alcohol establishment and ask an adult to buy them alcohol by tapping the adult’s shoulder or otherwise signaling the adult. “Shoulder Tap” enforcement programs enlist a minor decoy, under the direct supervision of law enforcement officers, to solicit adults outside of liquor stores to buy the minor decoy alcohol. Any person seen furnishing alcohol to the minor decoy is arrested (either cited or booked) for furnishing alcohol to a minor (National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives, 2001).

Discussion of Effectiveness

Alcohol

Limited evidence suggests that "Shoulder Tap" enforcement programs are effective as part of a multi-component strategy for alcohol outcomes (Spera, Barlas, Szoc, Prabhakaran, & Cambridge, 2012). More evidence is needed to evaluate “Shoulder Tap” programs as stand-alone prevention strategy.
A study investigated what local enforcement agencies are doing to deter adults from providing alcohol to underage youth (Jones-Webb, Toomey, Lenk, Nelson, & Erickson, 2015). The study found less than 42% of the 1,056 agencies in the study had enforcement programs targeting adults who provide alcohol to underage youth.

References

Strategy Description

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. Retrieved July 23, 2012.

Evidence Base

Jones-Webb, R., Toomey, T., Lenk, K., Nelson, T., & Erickson, D. (2015). Targeting Adults Who Provide Alcohol to Underage Youth: Results from a National Survey of Local Law Enforcement Agencies. Journal of Community Health, 40(3), 569-575. doi:10.1007/s10900-014-9973-0

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. (1999). Regulatory strategies for reducing youth access to alcohol: Best practices. Calverton, MD: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Center for Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws.

Spera, C., Barlas, F., Szoc, R. Z., Prabhakaran, J., & Cambridge, M. H. (2012). Examining the influence of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) program on alcohol-related outcomes in five communities surrounding Air Force bases. Addictive Behaviors, 37(4), 513–516. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.11.016

Futher Reading

California ABC – Shoulder Tap Program (Web page). (n.d.).

Hoover, S. A. (n.d.). Policy strategies to reduce underage and binge drinking. Community Prevention Institute.

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.

Toomey, T. L., Fabian, L. E. A., Erickson, D. J., & Lenk, K. M. (2007). Propensity for obtaining alcohol through shoulder tapping. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(7), 1218–1223. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2007.00420.x.

Toomey, T. L., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2002). Environmental policies to reduce college drinking: Options and research findings. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Suppl. 14, 193.