Area police officers will be undercover in liquor stores during the summer to detect any underage drinkers.

The annual "Cops in Shops" program was begun Thursday by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It involves local police officers searching for individuals buying liquor under the age of 21, or those at the legal age or older buying for underaged drinkers in participating retail stores. Law enforcement officials either pose as store employees or are positioned outside the establishments.

The program, which began in 1996, has since resulted in more than 10,000 arrests. In 2012, 202 arrests were made, according to a statement from the state Attorney General's Office.

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"Attitudes among some adults and young people about the dangers of underage drinking can range from indifferent to dismissive, making our job that much more challenging," ABC Director Michael Halfacre said in a statement. "But that's a challenge we embrace at the ABC because we are committed to preserving the physical and emotional health of the young people in New Jersey."

The 28 participating towns will receive grants from the division to help run the program, which includes $61,000 in funding provided by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Recipients include Absecon, Avalon, Egg Harbor Township, Barnegat Township, Long Beach Township, Lower Township, North Wildwood, Wildwood, Sea Isle City and Ship Bottom.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247

Follow Anjalee Khemlani on Twitter @AnjKhem

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