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9 Wants To Know: Undercover Volunteer Shows How Easy Buying Alcohol Can Be

7:49 PM, Feb 2, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Last night at 11, 9News Now used a hidden camera to show you how underage kids have been buying alcohol illegally at a Northwest Washington store.

Obviously, that isn't the only place selling to minors.

Andrea McCarren was with an undercover volunteer working with police to see how easy it is to get booze.

"Kids drink everywhere and this isn't going to stop underage drinking, but this is just going to make it harder for them to get," said Jen, an Undercover Volunteer.

Watch what happens when 19-year-old Jen attempts to buy alcohol at this Gaithersburg beer and wine store.

"It was too easy, it was just way too easy."

She bought a bottle of wine, no questions asked.

"If it was my first time, I would have been like, wow! Did that just happen?
"That's just way too easy to get your hands on alcohol," she said.

Jen is known as a UV, an undercover volunteer working with Montgomery County Police and the County's liquor control board to see if licensed establishments are complying with the law.

"I feel pretty good about it. I know some people think it's "narc" ing or going and ratting on people and it's not," she said.
" They ask how old I am, I tell them how old I am. I give them my real i.d."

On this night, we watched as Jen walked into liquor stores, restaurants, even a convenience store...

 "I usually check everyone's id, but this time I thought she was a regular one, she came every time." (Other guy:" Still you have to check it.") "It's my fault, I know that." (Store clerk)

She made successful buys 50-percent of the time.

"We do want to protect their identity so there won't be repercussions from the clerks or from the store owners. Or anyone who would want to cause them harm," said M. Lee Williams of the Montgomery County Dept. of Liquor Control.

At restaurants, Jen orders beer or wine and if she's served, she'll contact authorities waiting outside via phone or text. They go in, photograph her with the alcohol and issue a citation.

Montgomery County's compliance checks have set the standard for the nation and have been replicated by many other regions. Including their emphasis on being fair.

"The girls are not allowed to use heavy makeup or provocative clothing. If we use male UVs, they cannot have facial hair, have to be clean-shaven, no hats," said M. Lee Williams.

In fact, they're so fair, that once an undercover volunteer turns 20, they will no longer be used. Even though the legal drinking age is 21.

For the first offense, a licensed establishment is fined one thousand dollars for selling to anyone under 21. After that, you'll have to go before the liquor control board. Twice a month, Montgomery County offers free training sessions for licensed establishments to learn how to train their employees. For more information on that, go to our website, WUSA9.com.

**For more information or to register:
240-777-1989 or dlc@montgomerycountymd.gov

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