State agencies plan crackdown on underage drinking, DWI at summer concert venues

phish at spac
Photo by J.Reiss
The band Phish plays at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 2010. State officials say they will be cracking down on underage drinking at both SPAC and Jones beach this summer concert season.


State officials are warning concert goers to expect more DWI checkpoints and tougher enforcement of underage drinking in and around state-owned venues this summer, including SPAC and Jones Beach.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of coordinated sweeps during the summer concert season and at other underage hotspots as part of ongoing efforts to deter underage drinking and prevent the use of fake IDs.

The enforcement sweeps will occur unannounced at various concert venues and other places where young adults congregate across the state, and will be carried out by the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Division of Field Investigation in partnership with the State Liquor Authority, New York State Park Police, New York State Police and local law enforcement agencies.

Inside the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Jones Beach venues, a bracelet is required to purchase alcohol. Bracelets are obtained by showing legal ID at one of the ID stations set up inside the facility. Investigators from DMV and the State Liquor Authority will also be using portable document verification machines which allow them to conduct forensic examinations of suspect documents in the field using white light, UV light, and infrared light sources.

“Underage drinking and the bad decisions that follow lead to life-altering consequences for young people,” Cuomo said. “With this crackdown, we are not only sending the message that this behavior will not be tolerated in New York state, but we are taking steps to help prevent avoidable tragedies.”

jones beach - goes inside story textThe summer crackdown is part of Operation Prevent, a DMV initiative conducted all year long that targets not only concerts, but bars and drinking establishments, events and other underage hot spots. During an Operation Prevent sting, state investigators work with the State Liquor Authority and local police departments to check identification documents. Patrons under the age of 21 found to be using fake IDs with the intent of purchasing alcohol can be arrested and have their license revoked for a minimum of 90 days or up to one year.

Last year, a similar statewide crackdown at concert venues took place at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Genesee County, and CMAC in Canandaigua. This year, Operation Prevent will expand to additional venues, including Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island.

The New York State Park Police will continue a coordinated effort to crack down on illegal alcohol-related activities at and around Saratoga Spa State Park during the 2016 Saratoga Performing Arts Center Live Nation concert series as well as the summer concert series at Jones Beach. In addition to looking for fake IDs, uniformed and plainclothes Park Department officers will be patrolling park grounds, parking areas, and the concert venue to make arrests, issue tickets, impound vehicles, confiscate alcoholic beverages and eject violators from the park and concert venue. They will be using passive alcohol screening devices to detect alcohol in unmarked containers.

Additionally, police will be closely monitoring roadways and entry points to screen motorists for possession of alcoholic beverages and drunk and impaired driving. Drunk and impaired drivers will be immediately arrested and their vehicles may be impounded.

“People who jeopardize public safety with underage drinking, driving while intoxicated and illegal drug use or possession will not be tolerated,” said State Park Police Chief David Herrick.

Since January 2015, the State Liquor Authority has aggressively stepped up enforcement regarding sales to minors in addition to providing education to  on their responsibilities. Prosecutions by the State Liquor Authority increased to 1,552 violations in 2015, a 50 percent increase from 1,036 violations in 2010.