Cape May Court House –Nearly six hundred people attended the “We Check For 21” Program kick off officially starting the annual underage drinking awareness campaign in Cape May County. A record number attended the two training and information sessions on June 23rd hosted by Freeholder Gerald Thornton and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
This year marks the 19th anniversary of the program that originated in Cape May County in 1993 and has since been implemented statewide. The initiative that coined the slogan “If you’re too young to buy don’t even try” originally had forty businesses involved. Now, 19 years later more than one hundred businesses are participating.
The “We Check for 21” kick off program featured Underage Drinking Initiatives presented by the NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a Fake Identification Training Session by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Fraudulent Document Training Unit and a report on the Memorial Day Weekend Turn-Away program presented by Freeholder Thornton. Additionally, New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman James Plousis, who started the program in Cape May County when he was Sheriff, was a guest speaker.
For the tenth straight year, during Memorial Day weekend, the card & count turn away initiative was conducted in Cape May County. Under this initiative, several licensees documented and reported the total number of underage persons who were refused the purchase of alcohol. This year the data indicates that a total of 412 individuals were refused the sale of alcoholic beverages based on their failure to prove that they were at least 21 years of age. From 2002 through 2010, a total of 4,062 youth were refused a sale.
Freeholder Thornton said, “The turn away count is even more significant if you assume that each turn away had 2 friends that would have drank with him/her. The number would then triple to more than 12,000 kids in the past ten years who didn’t drink illegally over Memorial Day weekend. In my view, these numbers are staggering and genuinely reflect the success and impact this campaign has made.”
The “We Check for 21” program is a unique collaborative effort bringing together the public and private sectors of our county in the fight against underage drinking. The program has been successful in raising awareness that underage drinking is not tolerated in Cape May County.
The “We Check for 21” campaign educates persons 16-20 years old about underage drinking. Underage drinking is punishable by a fine of no less than $500 and loss of driver’s license for a minimum of 6 months. Freeholder Thornton added, “A promotional campaign which includes road signs, flyers and radio and television commercials is conducted all summer long spreading the word that “We Check For 21” is enforced in Cape May County.”
The Program is sponsored by Cape Assist and the Cape May County Municipal Alliances for the Prevention of Substance Abuse in cooperation with the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders and funded by a grant from the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Others involved in this effort include the Cape May County Licensed Beverage Association, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office and the Cape May County Chiefs of Police Association.