OCEANPORT — The law prohibits the consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21. On Monmouth Park's busiest race day of the year, countless underage individuals have already broken that law, and are feeling the effects, by the time they pull up to the venue.

To combat the issues of youth intoxication and underage drinking at the Haskell Invitational, which cops say have worsened over the years, officials are ramping up enforcement efforts for the 2019 event scheduled for Saturday, July 20.

"We'd like to stop it before it actually gets into the venue," said Oceanport Police Chief Michael Kelly. "They're showing up to Monmouth Park intoxicated and impaired."

Under-21 individuals, Kelly added, also attempt to sneak alcohol into the racetrack by using a cooler or "other means."

So instead of waiting to catch these individuals at the entrance gates, Kelly said, officers will be stationed along the surrounding streets, monitoring individuals heading toward the entrance from the parking lots.

There's also a wristband procedure in place. With proper ID at the gate, guests who can legally drink alcohol will be given a wristband, making enforcement easier inside for cops and bartenders.

During last year's Haskell alone, cops issued 32 borough ordinance violations for underage possession of alcohol, and eight for public intoxication (under 21). Kelly also cited two disorderly charges related to underage drinking and possession, and one charge against an adult who supplied a minor with alcohol.

Kelly said underage drinking at an event of this size is more than just a nuisance. Since officers are forced to stay with a juvenile until a parent or guardian is notified, patrols are unnecessarily kept away from their main "homeland security" function of ensuring the venue is safe and suspicious activity is investigated.

Monmouth Park allows guests to bring their own beer and wine, as well as coolers, through the picnic-area gate and into the BYO zone.

Aside from local police, law enforcement duties at the Haskell are handled by the State Police, Monmouth Park security and Alcoholic Beverage Control compliance officers, Kelly said.

The Haskell saw more than 37,000 visitors in 2018.

Monmouth Park did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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