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State announces crackdown on underage drinking, increased police presence at venues

Doobie Brothers performing at the Northwell Theater Jones

Doobie Brothers performing at the Northwell Theater Jones Beach in Wantagh Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

After 2020’s pandemic hiatus, summer concerts are returning to Jones Beach — and so are state investigators sweeping the venue for fake IDs and underage drinkers.

From the parking lots to the concession stands to the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater venue itself, the investigators will be out in plain clothes helping check IDs of those buying and consuming alcoholic beverages, the return of a program dating to at least 2003 called Operation Prevent.

"If the IDs are found to be fake, those possessing them will be ticketed," said an email from Tim O’Brien, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which is running the program.

Other agencies involved include the New York State Police, the State Park Police and the State Liquor Authority. In previous years, the program has also targeted underage drinkers at bars, which the investigators raided.

As at venues around much of the world, public gatherings were banned last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. But earlier this year, as the infection rate declined and vaccination rate climbed, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo eased last year’s restrictions he’d imposed.

Shows rescheduled from last year at Jones Beach include Jimmy Buffet (Aug. 10), Daryl Hall & John Oates (Aug. 11), James Taylor (Aug. 27) and Alanis Morissette (Aug. 29). Korn & Staind (Aug. 17), 3 Doors Down (Aug. 19), Kings of Leon (Aug. 25) and Pitbull (Sept. 4) are also scheduled to perform.

It is illegal to be 21 or younger and buy or consume alcohol, or to provide minors alcohol, under nearly all circumstances.

The "enforcement sweeps" will begin this week and continue throughout the summer, according to a news release from Cuomo’s office, which listed as targets the Jones Beach theater and other venues: CMAC in Canandaigua, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Lakeview Amphitheater.

Asked how many people were charged in connection with underage drinking-related offenses, O’Brien said that in 2019, 82 people were cited at Jones Beach. O'Brien could not immediately provide specifics of what the charge or charges were. According to a January 2020 news release from Cuomo on the same program, there were 82 confiscated fake IDs on Long Island in 2019.

O'Brien declined to disclose how many personnel would be involved in this year’s Operation Prevent.

The Cuomo news release quotes his DMV commissioner, Mark J.F. Schroeder: "We can finally get back to enjoying summer concerts — don't spoil the fun by using a fake ID. Our investigators are experts at detecting fakes, and they use state-of-the-art equipment to verify fraudulent IDs. No matter how good you think yours is, they will spot it and you will be charged."

The release said that DMV investigators in 2019 did sweeps at 127 locations statewide and gave 1,016 citations, seizing a record 918 fakes.

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