Village of River Forest Police Department partners with Oak Park Township on a Positive Youth Development Grant

August, 30, 2018

Nearly All Local Businesses Pass Underage Alcohol Sales Test
97% of Oak Park, All of River Forest Liquor License Holders Properly ‘Card’ Undercover Teens

On a pair of days in June, a small number of 19-year-old men and women fanned out across Oak Park and River Forest. Under the watchful eye of local law enforcement, their mission was to attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages.

In the vast majority of instances, employees of liquor license holders properly requested identification from them.

Conducted under the supervision of the Oak Park and River Forest Police departments, and in collaboration with Oak Park Township, the initiative was funded through a federal grant administered through the Illinois Department of Human Services. 

Positive Youth Development (PYD), working under the auspices of Oak Park Township, received the grant after recent Illinois Youth Surveys indicated that teens’ perception that they can gain retail access to alcohol is among the issues that play a role in their higher-than-average level of alcohol use. The same surveys reveal that Oak Park and River Forest youth consume alcohol at rates significantly higher than the state average.

In all, 65 businesses were tested—60 in Oak Park and five (5) in River Forest. All the River Forest businesses were in compliance, while 58 (or 97%) in Oak Park were in compliance. Citations were issued for the two Oak Park establishments that failed to request an ID from the young adults. 

Inside each business, an officer in plainclothes and another adult witness—a community volunteer or a Township employee —observed the interaction between the young adult and employee to ensure it occurred within sound compliance-enforcement practice.

The 19-year-olds were selected as attempted alcohol purchasers after being “age verified”—they appeared, based on random polling of community members, to be neither especially younger nor especially older than their actual ages, said Kelly O’Connor, PYD’s Prevention Outreach Coordinator.

“There are a host of alcohol-related problems in our community, and that includes teens’ access to alcohol,” said O’Connor. “These compliance checks are an evidence-based response and help us address underage drinking. At the same time, we want to congratulate and express our appreciation to the many businesses that complied with the law.”

In both Oak Park and River Forest, liquor license holders were notified shortly before the checks that the spot tests would be occurring in the near future.

“Businesses play a very important role in preventing access to alcohol to those who are under 21 years old,” O’Connor added. “We want people to feel comfortable and empowered to card anyone who looks like they may be underage.”

According to studies by many distinguished researchers and reports by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol affects areas of the brain that are still developing well into the mid-20s, including those needed for executive function and decision-making.

“In other words, the longer someone waits, at least until 21, before consuming alcohol, they increase their long-term chances of never having problems due to substance use,” said O’Connor.

If you are interested in contributing to efforts to reduce underage drinking in Oak Park and River Forest, please contact Kelly O’Connor at or Aimee Bates at