COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Prom season brings a heightened awareness of the underage drinking problem. It seems that every year, somewhere in Ohio there is a tragedy involving a teen killed in an alcohol-related crash.
The Ohio Investigative Unit works all-year long to make sure that businesses aren't selling alcohol to underage customers.
"A vast majority of businesses are compliant and doing what they should when it comes to underage individuals and alcohol," said Ohio Investigative Unit Agent-In-Charge Eric Wolf.
The agency uses underage informants to do compliance checks at stores and bars across the state. Of the 1,019 checks done in 2013, the underage customer was served 218 times.
"Furnishing alcohol to an underage person is a crime in-and-of itself," Wolf said. That applies to both store clerks and individuals.
The penalties go up if an underage person is involved in a serious or deadly crash. Investigators will trace back to the source of the alcohol.
Clerks and bartenders are free of liability if it can be proven that they did everything reasonably possible to make sure the customer was older than 21. But fake IDs are getting more sophisticated and easier to obtain.
"There's a number of sources that college kids and high school students can get fictitious identifications and then they in-turn use those to purchase alcohol or gain access to bars," Wolf said.
Overall, Wolf believes it's hard to say if the problem is getting better or worse. He says there's no question that it's been a constant problem.
(Photo courtesy Getty Images)