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CLC, CPD To Curb Underage Drinking

By Naveen Sunkavally


In a follow-up to its Cops in Shops program, the Cambridge License Commission and the Cambridge Police Department have launched a new program called Badges in Bars to crack down on underage drinking.

In contrast to the Cops in Shops program, in which police officers pose as store clerks in package stores, the Badges in Bars program places uniformed officers in restaurants and bars who ask students who look underage for identification.

CLC Executive Officer Richard Scali said the new program was started in response to concerns from local universities that there has been a rise in off-campus underage drinking in Cambridge. In particular, Scali said that recently an assistant dean from a local university went to a bar to investigate underage drinking and watched as underage students from that university drank alcohol.

However, “in the past, MIT, Harvard and Boston University have also made complaints,” Scali said.

In addition, Scali said that recent crackdowns in the Allston-Brighton area may have sent more underage students to Cambridge to acquire alcohol.

Only one potential violation so far

The Badges in Bars program first took effect on October 12th and 13th. Investigations into underage drinking have been occurring every week since then and expected to continue into next year, Scali said. So far there has been one potential violation, he said.

Under the program, one police officer is stationed at the door of a restaurant or bar to prevent students from getting away while another police officer, accompanied by the chief investigative officer from the CLC, approaches people drinking alcohol who look underage and asks them for identification, Scali said.

Those who do not produce proper identification are arrested or given citations that lead to a court appearance and the possibility of a $2,000 fine or imprisonment. In addition, the student’s school is notified, and the school will take the standard disciplinary action upon the student. The restaurant or bar where the alcohol is served is also subject to disciplinary action by the CLC.

“We try to hit eight to ten restaurants per night,” Scali said. “We tend to go to those that operate in the evening and have entertainment ... [primarily] in the Harvard Square, Central Square, Inman Square areas.”

Scali said that local universities, including MIT, have supported the program. “If they find any of their students [are caught], they will take disciplinary action,” Scali said.

MIT aware of program

Sarah Gallop, co-director of MIT’s office of government and community relations, said that MIT became aware of the program through its position on the Cambridge Licensee Advisory Board, which consists of institutions such as MIT and Harvard and organizations that have licenses to sell alcohol.

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said he was aware of the program but was uncertain on the type of consequences MIT students caught under the program would face.

In November of 1997, when Cops in Shops started, MIT held a public press conference at which Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin pledged support for that program with a $1,000 contribution to James Tipping, president of the CLAB at the time. Cops in Shops is currently still ongoing, Scali said, although officers haven’t took part in the program since December 1999.

Next week, the CLC is starting another new program in coordination with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This program has “underage kids outside package stores asking people on the street to serve them alcohol,” Scali said. The purpose of the program, however, is not punitive, and is meant to just tell those who do purchase alcohol for minors that they “just did the wrong thing.”