Operation Shoulder Tap

Young people commonly approach adults and sometimes homeless people who are gathered outside liquor stores, convenience stores or other alcohol outlets and ask them to purchase alcohol on their behalf. The youth generally offer to give the adult buyer money or some of the alcohol in exchange for making the buy.

“Mr. Will You” or Shoulder Tap Programs are designed to address that problem in the following two ways.

Discouraging adults from making purchases for youth.

    • They can institute a program, which uses trained young people as decoys (much like a compliance check).
    • Instead of asking a store clerk or bartender to sell alcohol to them, the young people approach individuals outside of alcohol outlets and ask them to make the purchase.
    • If the adult buys and hands over alcohol to the youth, a law enforcement officer or alcohol enforcement agent arrests or cites the adult. Often police will find that many of the adult offenders in a shoulder tap program are wanted for other offenses.

Discouraging young people from asking adults to make purchases for them.

    • Undercover enforcement officers “hang out” near alcohol outlets and wait to see if they are approached by young people and asked to purchase alcohol.
    • Depending upon the laws in the state, youth may be cited or given a warning if they ask an adult to secure alcohol illegally for them.

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Community How-To Guide