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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
An ad for a party on Craigslist led to 20 arrests during an undercover sting in the Upstate.
Party-goers arrived to a Greenville County apartment, alcohol in tow, to find themselves in handcuffs. The party, advertised as an underage drinking party, was actually hosted by the sheriff's department.
It's mission was to remind adults that giving alcohol to minors is illegal and they will be prosecuted.
The scene was set for what some may call a "rager" - loud music, drinking games and empty bottles scattered about the place. However, the only alcohol there, was brought by the invited guests.
From 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., men arrived at the door - some alone, others with friends. Those without alcohol were turned away, but twenty men came with booze.
Once they handed it to the 19-year-old informant, they were taken arrested and charged with transferring alcohol to a minor.
The sheriff's department posted a Craigslist ad a week before the party, which happened a few days before New Year's Eve. It asked for R.S.V.P.'s with a photo. More than a 150 inquiries came in, and while those people thought they were talking to a 19-year-old girl hosting a party, it was actually, a Greenville County deputy.
Deputy Jeremy Younginer responded as if he were a teenage girl, and responded the same to each caller, so he wouldn't get his stories mixed up. He worked 24 hours a day for the entire week, even answering texts and e-mails while he was with his family during Christmas.
Sgt. Mike Decker was in charge of the operation. He said the respondents were told the party wasn't free and that they needed to bring alcohol.
"They know right up front that it's underage girls and they're going to be transferring alcohol to minors," said Decker.
The first doorbell ring of the night showed up with moonshine, as he said he would in an earlier text conversation with Younginer.
Before the party, Younginer said about 80 people had intentions to show up with alcohol. He said that many backed out. Overall, 20 arrests lead to a successful event.
"The whole point of a ticket or the whole point of this whole process is to amend behavior. We want these people to experience not just getting a ticket, but experience being arrested, so that they understand how this is a big deal. This isn't something where you just get a little slap on the wrist or you just get a ticket, that kind of thing. If you do this sort of thing in Greenville County. You go to jail," Sgt. Decker explained.
Deputies said those arrested weren't all standard offenders, but clean-cut guys, looking for a good time, or maybe a girlfriend.
Curtis Reece with the Phoenix Center, Greenville's drug rehabilitation center, said transferring alcohol to minors is often an innocent transaction.
"It seems to be just a part of a social scene, college age, but if that alcohol gets in the hands of minors, they can die as a result of that. A lot of tragic accidents can happen: suicides, fights, violence. That's the things were trying to prevent," said Reece.
The operation is a partnership with the sheriff's office and the rehab center. The Phoenix Center got a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Greenville County was one of four jurisdictions in the country testing out creative enforcement methods to stop adults from giving minors alcohol.
Sgt. Decker said the plan is "very labor intensive," but explained that "if we keep kids from getting hurt, if we keep a kid from getting alcohol. If one of the people that we arrest decides hey, it isn't worth it, I'm not going to do this anymore, then it's worth the effort."
At the very least, it kept the alcohol bought that night, away from underage drinkers.
In the past, local sheriff's offices have gone undercover at convenience stores. They hire underage informants to ask adults to buy them alcohol. Those who buy, were ticketed. Those kinds of stings are still done, and the Phoenix Center said they've caused the rate of adults buying for minors to plummet. They hope this new kind of Craigslist bust will remind people that it's not ok to buy alcohol for minors.
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