New Jersey

Cops in Shops: New Jersey Program Cracks Down on Underage Drinking

'Cops in the Shops' partners with local alcohol retailers to put undercover officers inside the stores.

Thirty-two New Jersey towns are cracking down on underage alcohol sales.

For the 21st summer, New Jersey police departments are rolling out the ‘Cops in the Shops’ program.

The Division of Highway Traffic Safety allocates $81,000 of grants and federal funds to different police departments to fund the program. Those grants range from $1,200 to $6,200. The Department of Highway Safety declined to disclose which police departments received the most funding, but said they were determined based on the size and number of active liquor licenses. 

Cops in the Shops strives to tackle underage drinking through partnerships with local liquor stores and by staying on the lookout for adults who buy alcohol for people who are underage.

The program places undercover cops, posing as employees or customers, in stores to stop alcohol purchases from those under 21, or using a fake ID. The campaign also uses posters and newspaper ads to warn against the repercussion of underage drinking.

In towns like Cape May, the program is an aid to law enforcement during the hectic summer season.

“We obviously have an influx of individuals outside our area,” Cape May Police Chief Anthony Marino told NBC10.

During the summer, Cape May skyrockets from its local population of 5,000 to 50,000 people on any given weekend, Marino said.

“It’s a high time for underage drinking,” Marino said. “[The program] is about preventing somebody underage from getting a hold of alcohol, and preventing any medical issues or DWIs.”

In Wildwood, Lieutenant Detective Kenneth Gallagher says this summer will be more challenging. He discovered that people are now using mobile apps to communicate which stores are safe. 

“We have 56 licensed [liquor retailers], so there’s a lot.”

Inside the stores, his detectives keep a low profile- listening to conversations and studying mannerisms. They are also on the lookout for kids approaching adults to buy alcohol for them.

Gallagher says working with the local retailers has been invaluable, as he and his team have learned how to spot fake IDs.

Last summer, the 229 arrests were made through ‘Cops in the Shops,’ according to a report released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office. 

Below are the towns participating in the program:

Asbury Park

Atlantic City

Atlantic Highlands


Barnegat Twp

Beach Haven


Berkeley Twp

Brick Twp

Cape May City

Egg Harbor

Galloway Twp

Harvey Cedars

Jackson Twp

Lake Como



Lower Twp

Manchester Twp

Middle Twp

Neptune Twp

North Wildwood


Ocean Twp (Ocean County)

Point Pleasant Beach

Point Pleasant Borough

Red Bank

Sea Isle City

Ship Bottom

Township of Ocean (Monmouth County)

Union Beach


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