State alcohol agents sent a timely message to underage drinkers on the first weekend of the school year: Stay out of the bars and liquor stores until you're 21.
A three-day undercover operation by state alcohol control agents cooperating with Lawrence bars and liquor stores resulted in 98 tickets -- mostly for fake IDs. That's nearly half as many in less than a week as Lawrence police wrote all of last year.
The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division on Aug. 26, 27 and 28 sent eight undercover officers into Lawrence bars and liquor stores.
The operation was in cooperation with the Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn. (KLBA), a nonprofit organization of establishments that serve alcohol.
"This was a way we could work together to shut this (underage drinking) down," said Rita "Peach" Madl, president of the KLBA and owner of The Sandbar, 117 E. Eighth.
Seven Lawrence bars and seven liquor stores participated in the operation, said Angela Goering, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, of which the ABC is a division.
Undercover ABC agents stood near the entrances to bars and cited people suspected of using fake IDs.
The weekend was picked because it was the first following the start of classes at Kansas University, Goering said.
"The agents that were there, they knew it was going to be a busy weekend, and as part of our educational effort with our licenses, we feel like it would be a good time to show them what to look for when people try to pass off fake IDs," Goering said.
The program was part of "Cops in Shops," in which undercover law enforcement officers pose as employees in liquor stores. The recent operation was the first time the program had been expanded to include bars, Madl said.
Most of the citations were given to people under age 21 who allegedly possessed altered or illegally manufactured IDs or were in possession of someone else's ID.
Other citations were written to people for furnishing alcohol to minors, and possession or attempted possession of alcohol by a minor.
Six violations also were written to establishments for alcohol violations, Goering said.
Fines for the violations range from $200 to $500.
The number of citations written is relatively significant, but not surprising, said Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. George Wheeler.
"What happens is that when you have a concentrated effort like that, you're able to get a bunch," he said.
Last year, Lawrence police issued 181 minor in possession citations and 35 tickets for fake IDs, Wheeler said.
Those figures don't include citations from other ABC sting operations or tickets issued by Kansas University police last year.
-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is email@example.com.