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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- In a sweeping undercover operation last week, the Westchester County district attorney's office and local police arrested dozens of bartenders and clerks who illegally sold alcohol to minors, officials said today.
The operation, in which undercover teenage volunteers tried to buy alcohol 125 times from scores of licensed establishments in four Westchester cities -- New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, Yonkers and White Plains -- came in response to concerns generated by several well publicized cases of drinking by teenagers in the county.
The volunteers, who were 16 to 18 years old, successfully bought alcohol 42 times. In almost all cases they were not asked for identification. The operation, which took place Nov. 27, 29 and 30, resulted in 46 criminal charges against individual bartenders and clerks. They face up to a year in jail as well as a $1,000 fine.
The district attorney's office has also filed criminal charges against the convenience stores, bars and restaurants and involved, which face a maximum fine of $5,000. The State Liquor Authority said it would bring administrative charges as well.
In a news conference, the Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro also announced an initiative to stores identify fake driver's licenses. With financing from Heineken USA and Lobo Distributors, the program, called Operation Teen Proof, involves the distribution of scanning devices to more than 2,300 businesses with liquor licenses in Westchester.
In the next week, c-stores, bars and restaurants will receive the devices, which resemble a small pocket flashlight with a viewfinder. By peering through the device, a clerk can tell whether the license was altered or fabricated. A valid New York State license has rows of state seals that are visible with the device. Likewise, the device will pick up smudge marks if a valid license has been tampered with.
"Until we reach the level of 100 percent compliance in this county, we will continue to use all of these efforts to combat the problem" of under-age drinking, Pirro said.