The Associated Press HARRISBURG (AP) -- For years, Joe Moerder says he tried to warn adults from buying booze for underaged drinkers, to no avail. "I say, 'I know you're not drinking all this.' They say, 'Don't tell me -- you just have to sell to me'," said the owner of Big Jack's Brewers Outlet in Pottsville. But since May, with Moerder's cooperation, undercover agents have made two arrests at his business in a pilot sting operation in Schuylkill County. "Cops in Shops" uses $500,000 in federal grants to pay officers overtime and has been tested for the past six months in Schuylkill County, where reported successes are anecdotal. It will be expanded to 45 counties and municipalities by the end of 1998. The program, which began in Delaware in 1991, is intended to ultimately curb drunken-driving fatalities, said Stephen Schmidt, education director for the state Liquor Control Board. In 1996, state police arrested 2,548 minors for underage drinking and cited 318 businesses for sales to minors. That same year, there were 1,275 drinking drivers under age 21 involved in alcohol-related crashes, up 6 percent from 1995, according to the state Transportation Department. Cops in Shops -- coordinated by the Liquor Control Board and the Transportation Department -- allows beer distributors, bars and wine and spirit shops to voluntarily work with officers, who rotate to each business. Posters plastered on windows, coolers and cash registers also warn potential violators that undercover police could be on the premises. The program will officially kick off in Lancaster on Friday, where about 30 retailers will work with 15 police departments.Comments powered by Disqus
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