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‘Operation Prevent’ to target underage drinking at concerts

An aerial view of the theater on April

An aerial view of the theater on April 19, 2015. Credit: / Kevin Coughlin

A crackdown on underage drinking at New York concerts this summer involving sweeps by investigators assigned to such venues as Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater was announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The new program — part of the state’s “Operation Prevent” initiative — will include investigators from the Department of Motor Vehicles, State Police, the State Liquor Authority, State Park Police and local law enforcement officers who will be on the lookout for underage drinkers using fake driver’s licenses to purchase alcohol, Cuomo said in a news release.

Patrons under the age of 21 found to be using false documents to purchase alcoholic beverages can be arrested and risk having their license revoked for a minimum of 90 days or up to one year, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that as part of the initiative, the first concert enforcement was conducted on May 18, when there were 12 arrests at the Brad Paisley concert at the upstate Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and he added that 55 arrests were made at the Future concert at Darien Lake on May 24.

“From Buffalo’s Canalside and Darien Lake, to SPAC and Jones Beach, New York offers some of the nation’s greatest summer concert venues, and with the launch of this program, we will crack down on underage drinking at these concerts to help prevent bad decisions and stop avoidable tragedies,” Cuomo said. “Make no mistake, using a fake ID is illegal and the consequences that come with it just aren’t worth it.”

Cuomo said that at the Brad Paisley and Future concerts, fraudulent licenses were recovered from New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida.

“The Operation Prevent campaign is not meant to surprise anyone,” said Terri Egan, executive deputy commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles and acting chairwoman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, in the release. “We want people to know we will be out at these venues, checking for fake identification and arresting underage concertgoers who try to buy alcoholic beverages. Our goal is to discourage behavior that can lead to crashes, injuries and deaths.”

Among the venues targeted by Operation Prevent investigators this summer will be Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua and the Lakeview Amphitheater in Syracuse, “as well as other events where underage concertgoers are likely to gather,” Cuomo added.

Cuomo said investigators will use portable document verification machines to conduct forensic examinations of suspect documents using white light, UV light and infrared light sources.

State Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent G. Bradley said those who sell alcohol should be on notice as well.

“Businesses that make illegal sales as well as minors attempting to buy alcohol using fake IDs are on notice that they will be held accountable for their actions,” Bradley said.

Operation Prevent is supported by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, which coordinates traffic safety activities in the state and awards federal highway safety grant funds to local, state and not-for-profit agencies for projects to improve highway safety and reduce deaths and serious injuries due to crashes.

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