A statewide campaign is underway cracking down on underage drinking in Mississippi. This recently resulted in 80 arrests in the state's three biggest college towns. MP's Jeffrey Hess reports Mississippi's Attorney General says the crack down is a warning underage drinkers across the state.
A recent undercover sweep through Oxford, Starkville, and Hattiesburg led to more than 80 people being cited for drinking under age or selling to minors.
Mark Hicks, director of law enforcement with Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control, says Mississippians under 21 are using highly polished fake ID's to purchase alcohol.
"Alcohol is always going to be part of the college experience. And that is where a lot of our enforcement has been in college towns and fake ID enforcement," Hicks said.
Hicks says a major concern is minors driving drunk.
College is often associated with drinking, even for people under 21, and Tawni Basden with Students Against Drunk Driving says that is a dangerous combination.
"Something we want to address as well. We are starting in junior high and high school and hoping to teach up. But the college students are an issue as well because they are thinking they are on their own. And they are trying to do all these things and it is causing some problems," Basden said.
Mississippi ranks third for teenage road deaths, with 67 deaths last year and alcohol is often a factor.
Dennis Thomas, who has been running a Jackson liquor store for over thirty years, says he has to carefully check people who look close to 21.
"You have got to check their IDs. And sometimes you have got to even ask them to give you their birthday because they will have somebody else's card and some of them are not smart enough to memorize the date. I have caught a few like that. I think if they really, really want to get it there are ways around it. They send someone in to buy it who is older," Thomas said.
According to the Attorney General, in the last fiscal year there were over 6,000 compliance checks but just four percent of the time were they able to illegally purchase alcohol.