Cops In Shops


Cops in Shops programs involve undercover law enforcement officers issuing citations or making arrests for underage purchases, attempts to purchase, and related violations such as adults purchasing alcohol for underage youth.


  • To limit commercial availability of alcohol to underage youth
  • To deter alcohol purchases at local outlets by or for underage youth

Typical Elements

  • Buy-in from and collaboration with law enforcement agencies (police departments, ABC agencies, etc.) to implement the program.
  • Distribution of program information and materials to businesses with liquor licenses (i.e., licensees) throughout the jurisdiction (Gabriel et al., 2008; NHTSA, 2001). These materials can:
    • Inform licensees about the program and urge them to participate, usually through a letter or other communication from an ABC or law enforcement agency.
    • Provide posters and warning signs that licensees can display to let young people know they will receive consequences if they attempt to purchase alcohol (Mosher & Stewart, 1999).
  • Groups of officers (in teams of two), selected by collaborating law enforcement agencies (NHTSA, 2001). 
  • Prevention champions and stakeholders who collaborate with law enforcement agencies and retailers to select appropriate program sites (e.g., outlets with a lot of underage activity and/or a large college population) (Montgomery, Foley, & Wolfson, 2006; NHTSA, 2001).
  • Officers who cite or arrest underage youth who attempt to purchase or complete a purchase of alcohol illegally (NHTSA, 2001).
    • Note: In addition to enforcement duties, officers can provide additional training to retail employees at participating sites (e.g., how to detect fake IDs), review the retailers’ policies and procedures, identify potential risky or illegal practices, and work on establishing positive relationships with local alcohol retailers (Mosher & Stewart, 1999).
  • Prevention champions and stakeholders who collaborate with participating law enforcement agencies to develop a system to track and document all citations and arrests resulting from the program (Gabriel et al., 2008; NHTSA, 2001).
  • Communication strategies to publicize the program’s launch and keep the community well informed about its progress. These strategies can include (Gabriel et al., 2008; NHTSA, 2001):
    • Informing key players in the judicial system. For example, prosecutors may be able to help track citations and arrests for use in media follow-up.
    • Holding a news conference to announce that the program will be deployed in retail outlets throughout the community.
    • Distributing news releases periodically to raise awareness about the number of underage youth cited and build program support.


  • Youth under age 21
  • Adults who try to purchase alcohol for youth under age 21


No outcome data found for role of Cops in Shops program in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.


Community How To Guide on…Enforcement

Enforcing the Minimum Drinking Age: State, Local and Agency Characteristics Associated with Compliance Checks and Cops in Shops Programs

Cops in Shops

Regulatory Strategies for Preventing Youth Access to Alcohol: Best Practices


No recognition found for role of Cops in Shops program in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.


Gabriel, R., Becker, L., Leahy, S. K., Landy, A. L., Metzger, J., Orwin, R., . . . Stein-Seroussi, A. (2008, April 30). Assessing the fidelity of implementation of the Strategic Prevention Framework in SPF SIG-funded communities: User’s guide and fidelity assessment rubrics (version 2).

Montgomery, J. M., Foley, K. L., & Wolfson, M. (2006). Enforcing the minimum drinking age: State, local and agency characteristics associated with compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs. Addiction, 101(2), 223–231.

Mosher, J. F., & Stewart, K. (1999). Regulatory strategies for preventing youth access to alcohol: Best practices. Calverton, MD: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Retrieved from

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2001). Community how to guide on…enforcement. Retrieved from