On April 10, 2018, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) announced the formation of a task force to provide municipal police officers with hands-on experience spotting signs of organized crime in their local bars, investigating and shutting down problem servers, and enforcing other alcoholic beverage control laws that help protect the quality of life for New Jersey residents.
The ABC Task Force will invite municipal police officers from around the state to sign up for year-long stints working alongside investigative personnel from the ABC and the Division of Criminal Justice (“DCJ”) as they oversee compliance among the more than 9,000 licensees who manufacture, distribute, sell, and serve alcoholic beverages in the state.
ABC Task Force members will receive specialized training in ABC policies, procedures, and techniques, and gain hands-on experience in identifying and investigating liquor law violations ranging from selling untaxed alcohol and serving underage patrons, to hidden criminal interests among liquor license holders and organized crime activities in bars and clubs.
“When alcoholic beverage control laws are broken, communities suffer the consequences in the form of public disturbances, tragic accidents, and the presence of undesirable criminal elements. The ABC has long relied on municipal police departments as critical allies in enforcing its laws in every city, suburb, and rural community across the state,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The ABC Task Force will strengthen and expand these important partnerships by providing local officers with in-depth training and experience to better identify, investigate, and take action against licensees whose illegal activities wreak havoc on their communities.”
The announcement of the ABC Task Force comes on the heels of the ABC’s successful collaborations with municipal police departments during annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this year.
On March 3, the ABC dispatched 14 officers to help the Hoboken Police Department keep a lid on disorderly behavior during the city’s annual St. Patrick’s-themed bar crawl known as “LepreCon.” The yearly event, and its Christmas-themed predecessor “SantaCon,” have drawn fierce criticism from Hoboken residents and elected officials who say the day-long celebration draws unruly crowds to the city and inevitably devolves into drunken chaos fraught with street brawls, public urination, and alcohol-related medical emergencies that tie up police and emergency personnel.
This year, ABC officials met with Hoboken police prior the event to discuss ways to apply and enforce the state’s liquor laws to cut down on disruptive behavior. During the event ABC officers worked alongside officers from the Hoboken Police Department’s Alcohol Beverage Control Unit to monitor bars and other establishments for compliance with laws prohibiting the admission of underage guests, serving intoxicated patrons, exceeding occupancy limits, and other health and security violations.
As a result, this year’s LepreCon was, by all accounts, a calmer, more orderly event. Calls for police service dropped 21 percent from the year before, fewer individuals required transport to the hospital, and just four people were arrested, a significant decrease from the 11 arrests the year before.
The day after LepreCon, the ABC sent 13 officers to Belmar to help local police there maintain order during the town’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one of the largest in the state.
The ABC’s presence at the event has been credited by the town as helping to sharply reduce disorderly conduct during the day-long parade and celebration.
“Our work with local police departments during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations represent the kind of cooperative partnerships we’re looking to promote through our ABC Task Force,” said David Rible, Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “ABC officers can’t be everywhere at once. By providing local officers with in-depth training in applying and enforcing our laws in their towns, we’re putting additional boots on the ground to help us promote the responsible use of alcohol, while maintaining a fair regulatory environment for the industry.”
Acting under the direction of the ABC, the ABC Task Force will be comprised of approximately 20 members – eight ABC investigators, nine DCJ detectives assigned to the ABC, and three municipal police officers representing departments from the north, south, and central sections of the state.
Under the ABC Task Force, municipal officers will:
- Be provided with a working knowledge of New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage control laws and administrative regulations.
- Become familiar with the ABC’s current investigative techniques.
- Conduct detailed financial investigations to uncover undisclosed interests, illegal activity, tax, and record-keeping violations of ABC licensees.
- Investigate complaints involving alleged violations of NJ alcoholic beverage laws and/or administrative regulations.
- Learn how to conduct a background investigation on liquor license applicants to determine if applicants meet the requirements to hold a NJ liquor license.
- Become familiar with how to hold municipal disciplinary hearings to address allegations of violation among licensees.
- Conduct special projects and assignments deemed necessary at the request of the Director of the ABC.
The ABC is currently accepting applications for its first ABC Task Force, which is scheduled to begin training in April.
Police departments interested in participating in the ABC Task Force should submit a letter of interest to Director David Rible by April 23, 2018.