Alcohol Law Enforcement searches for new strategies after budget cuts – The Daily Tar Heel

Despite cuts to the Alcohol Law Enforcement program, North Carolina is looking for new ways to combat underage drinking — and the $1.5 billion it costs the state every year.

Luther Snyder, spokesman for the Alcohol Beverage Control commission, said the ABC commission allocated $1.5 million to start the North Carolina Preventing Underage Drinking Initiative, a newly-formed department that aims to both educate young people about the dangers of drinking and more strictly enforce the alcohol laws that are already in existence.

The initiative comes after last summer’s budget cuts to ALE, the state’s main agency in charge of enforcing the Alcohol Beverage Control Laws.

ALE had a budget of $13.1 million in 2010, but in the past few years, Snyder said ALE’s budget has been decreasing. It took the biggest cut last summer . ALE’s statewide budget was reduced by $1.5 million to $9.9 million, Snyder said. Ten ALE positions were lost as a result of the cuts.

The N.C. Department of Public Safety said in a statement that ALE has the same number of sworn agents that it had in 1992 when there were only 15,000 ABC licensed establishments. There are now 25,000 ABC licensed establishments in the state.

Bars on Franklin Street have had mixed experiences this school year regarding visits from ALE.

“Visits from the ALE have been less frequent than they were before,” said Kyle Heath, owner of The Library.

But Steve Woodham, owner of Goodfellows, said he has not seen any change in the frequency of ALE visits this year.

As ALE tries to do more with less funding, the ABC commission’s initiative is trying to help alleviate some of the pressure. It aims to go directly to the source of the problem, instead of just writing tickets for underage drinking.

Snyder said they’ll target the supply of underage drinking, including bars that aren’t strict on IDs, the adults that buy alcohol for underage people and the businesses that manufacture fake IDs.

They will also target the demand. One of the initiative’s strategies is to form a speakers program, where victims of alcohol-related incidents or family members of victims will go to different high schools and middle schools in the state to share their stories.

Leaders of the initiative are still researching effective messages to deliver to the public and will put the initiative’s plans into action later this year.

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