In 2010 alone, New York State had about 350 alcohol-related fatal crashes. Of those drivers, 22 were underage. Ten years ago, that number was 48. The State Police credits this 50 percent drop to a number of initiatives, including monthly undercover crackdowns on people selling alcohol to minors. Our Megan Cruz has this month's Driving it Home.
RENSSELAER COUNTY, N.Y. -- A briefing at SP Schodack before a 17-year-old goes undercover. For that reason, YNN is concealing his identity.
"You're not to have any ID on you at any time. If you're ever asked at any point how old you are, you're not to lie at all," said Sgt. Scott Dauphinais. He's the commander in charge of this operation.
"Just go straight to the cooler, grab some sort of alcoholic beverage - beer, whatever - go up to the clerk, just put it on the table," he continued. "If they ask you how old you are, tell them your age. If they ask you if you have an ID, tell them you don't have an ID. At that point, they should refuse to sell to you and you just leave the establishment."
The first stop on their sting: the Jiff-E-Mart in Castleton. The objective? To make sure stores, bars, restaurants, and the like aren't selling alcohol to minors.
"Can I see your ID?" asked one Jiff-E-Mart clerk.
"I actually don't have it on me," said the undercover teen.
The clerk called over to a co-worker: "Sonny, he doesn't have his ID on him," she said.
"Huh?" she says. "Ok. $3.28."
"Ok, we got a sale," said Sgt. Dauphinais. "That was very quick."
"The charge is going to be unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree - a class A misdemeanor," he explained. "Basically, if you sell alcohol to a child, you're guilty of that charge. Or, if you give cause to be sold to that child, you're also guilty of that charge. So that's why they were both arrested for this case."
Dauphinais says in the four years he's been conducting these random checks, he's never had an arrest here at the Jiff-E-Mart. He says he hopes this sting gets them back on track since selling to a minor has dire consequences.
"Then they'll be behind the wheel when they're intoxicated and it can lead to a tragedy," said Dauphinais.
Next stop: Mahar's on South Main Street.
"We'll take two Blue Moon Lights, please," said the teen.
"Do I pay now?" he asked.
"If you want," says the bartender.
Two for two.
"You understand what happened here tonight?" Dauphinais asked the bar's owner.
"24 years working the bar!" screamed the bartender. "I always proof!"
Eight places in southern Rensselaer County were checked during this operation. They arrested one more that night at a Mobil in East Greenbush.
"I had a headache," said the clerk as he tried to explain why he didn't card.
"Well you have to ID everyone," said the sergeant.
Sgt. Dauphinais says these compliance checks are a necessary tactic.
"I don't really see it as tricking people because if they're doing what they're suppose to do, they should be carding every patron that comes through the door that looks less than 40," he said.
And with alcoholic beverages becoming more diverse, some even masking as energy drinks, the State Police just wants to keep establishments on their toes.
The sergeant says the good thing is that the majority of people do the right thing, but says the checks will still keep coming.
"Anytime a juvenile walks in there and tries to buy alcohol, hopefully they think it's us and that type of deterrent hopefully prevents a sale," said Dauphinais.
And those places caught selling to minors will be referred to the New York State Liquor Authority.
The four arrested will face fines, and even up to a year in jail.