BILLERICA -- Despite statistics that show incidences of underage drinking dropping, and fewer minors arrested for driving drunk, police emphasize more work must be done to further reduce underage drinking and driving.
One way to help the Police Department's campaign is through an $8,000 grant, according to Deputy Chief Roy Frost. The "2014 Underage Alcohol Enforcement Grant," which Billerica received last week, is one of 76 grants to local police departments that are awarded on a competitive basis.
"This much-needed funding helps us target the problem of underage drinking on all fronts," said Billerica Police Chief Dan Rosa. "Whether you are underage, plan to sell to a minor, or buy alcohol for a minor, this funding promotes our effort to diligently enforce the laws against underage drinking."
The $8,000 grant will support stings/compliance checks for minors in bars, restaurants and package stores; reverse stings; "shoulder tap" and "Cops in Shops" programs; and party patrols.
Over the past two years, there have been 153 youth citations and 219 youth arrests as a result of these grants across the state. In addition, there have been 162 adult citations and 272 adult arrests because of these grants in the commonwealth.
"Teens and parents need to be reminded that underage drinking is not a game. It's deadly serious," Rosa said. "Parents need to know that hosting a party where alcohol is served to minors is illegal and extremely dangerous for the minors and others in the community.
"Parents should also know they'll face all legal liabilities," he added.
Progress has been made in Massachusetts over the last few years, according to police. Violations for underage drinking decreased 41.5 percent from 2007 to 2011, and arrests of drivers younger than 18 for operating under the influence decreased 45.4 percent from 2006 to 2010.
Billerica police is "committed to using this grant to reduce the number of motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries in Billerica because any loss of life or injury on our roadways is one too many," according to Rosa.
In November, Billerica selectmen punished a family-owned package store on Nutting Lake after a store employee sold beer to a minor during an August police sting, according to the Police Department.
After police recommended a 15-day license suspension, selectmen ruled that Turnpike Market and Package Store Inc., 509 Middlesex Turnpike, cannot sell alcohol for three days each month from November to March.
"We take these violations very, very seriously," Rosa said. "We understand it's a family business, and we're not trying to put anyone out of business, but we're firm that these things cannot happen. Businesses cannot sell to minors.
"We believe that (15 days) is a fair and reasonable outcome, and it guarantees we won't have these violations in the future," he added.
Area communities that are also receiving a "2014 Underage Alcohol Enforcement Grant" are Lowell for $15,000; Tewksbury for $4,966.08; Westford for $4,959.32; and Wilmington for $4,995.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provided $532,000 to Massachusetts for these grants.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.