Mauldin Police Sgt. James Madden was recently recognized for his efforts to curb underage drinking and keep youth safe and alcohol-free.
Sgt. Madden was named the 2022-2023 Alcohol Enforcement Team (AET) Officer of the Year in Greenville County for his outstanding dedication to enforcing underage drinking laws. He received the award from The Phoenix Center and Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County.
Sgt. Madden participates with the AET to ensure that businesses and restaurants in the City of Mauldin comply with state law in refusing to sell alcohol or tobacco products to minors. To check compliance, he recruits underage confidential informants and sends them into local establishments to try to buy alcohol or tobacco products.
He is required to perform at least four compliance checks per month, but Sgt. Madden said he typically doubles that and performs at least eight checks each month to make his presence known in the community.
The approach seems to be working.
When Sgt. Madden took over the program approximately five years ago, the rate at which minors were able to purchase alcohol or tobacco products during compliance checks — known as the buy rate — was close to 9 percent. As a result of Sgt. Madden’s efforts, the buy rate has fallen to just 3.9 percent, the lowest rate in Greenville County and far below the national average of 15 percent.
“Once the businesses saw that we were out there and we were checking, they started falling into compliance, because the fines are pretty steep,” Sgt. Madden said.
Sgt. Madden attributes the success of the program not only to the frequency of compliance checks but to the support of Police Chief George Miller, who has given him the time and resources to make the program effective.
He also said that a strong belief in the mission has been crucial to getting results.
“The big thing that made it successful is believing in the mission statement, believing that it makes an impact in the community,” Sgt. Madden said. “The ultimate goal is not only to prevent youths from getting their hands on these substances, but it’s also to protect the community and prevent crimes that might happen as a result of youths drinking. So this was a chance for me to try to be more proactive in crime prevention while protecting our community and our youth. And the buy rates have dropped, so it is effective just being out there.”
Looking ahead, Sgt. Madden will continue in his role in the City of Mauldin and will also be taking on a part-time coordinator position with The Phoenix Center to assist other police departments with their prevention efforts.
While he was surprised and honored to receive the award, Sgt. Madden said the true reward is knowing that his actions directly contribute to preventing crime and keeping community members safe.
“It’s awesome to be recognized for it,” Sgt. Madden said. “Realistically, I didn’t get into this to get an award. I firmly believed in the mission statement from the get-go. And that’s why I’m able to be as proactive as I am, just because I believe in it and I can physically see the difference. I can see that what I’m doing is affecting our buy rates, affecting our sellers, affecting the safety of our community. There’s a tangible difference.”
Watch Fox Carolina’s story on Sgt. Madden here: https://www.foxcarolina.com/2023/09/04/upstate-officer-gets-award-lowering-underage-alcohol-sales/