In a effort to curb underage drinking and bar violence, the Columbia Police Department has organized a downtown task force to enter bars and patrol for underage drinking. The new downtown task force consists of mounted officers, a bike patrol and officers on foot.
Police plan to walk through Columbia bars on heavy drinking nights to check IDs for underage drinkers. In the past, Columbia bars have experienced increased problems with underage drinking and violence. Columbia Police Sgt. Lloyd Simons said that bars had a 50 percent failure rate of serving minors. Since implementing a downtown task force, that number is down to 30 percent, Simons said.
However, not all bar owners and patrons agree that this is the solution. With Columbia’s large number of college students, underage drinking is difficult to spot. Fake IDs not caught by a bouncer may lead to increased fines and additional strain on businesses already facing tough economic times. Bar patrons may feel harassed or skiddish being shoulder-to-shoulder with police on their Friday night. And despite the decrease in underage drinking, the majority of cases brought to court by the downtown task force have been thrown out for not being conducted according to state regulations.
How effective is the new downtown task force?