MAULDIN, S.C. (WSPA) – More than one in four high school students, 29%, said they drank alcohol within the past 30 days. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Mauldin Police Department is tackling the problem by going to the source.

Sergeant James Madden is in charge of the department’s effort to curb underage drinking by checking on stores and businesses in Mauldin that sell alcohol, tobacco and vaping products.

“It’s not about the monetary. It’s not about any of that,” Sgt. Madden said. “It’s about keeping our youth and our community safe.”

Madden used underage informants to attempt to buy products from stores within the city limits. Volunteers are paid to go into those businesses and reveal their real age if asked by the clerk. Madden said he provides the underage informants with money and methods to keep a record of the attempted transaction.

“If they ask the age, we’re gonna give it to him. And they’ll just try to attempt to purchase alcohol or whatever product we need,” according to Madden. “They’ll come back and report to me or if they do get the purchase, then they’ll bring it to me.”

Clerks who sell alcohol, tobacco or vaping products to those underage informants will be ticketed.

There is another source for Sgt. Madden to find underage informants.

People who are facing some charges, such as traffic tickets, can participate in the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Court Diversion Program (EUDL) and work off their charges.

“(They) come on the program for a day and we’ll dismiss it for you,” Sgt. Madden told 7NEWS.

There are some charges that aren’t included in EUDL. However, participants can have the charge dropped with no fine or court date assessed.

“Kind of like, you help us, we’ll help you.”

The Mauldin Police Department said the national buy rate for these kinds of operations is around 15%. The number in South Carolina is 9%.

But in Mauldin, the latest buy rate was 3.9%.

Sgt. Madden has been honored for his efforts to curb underage drinking. He was named Officer of the Year by The Phoenix Center in Greenville and Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County.

Anyone under the age of 21 who wants to participate in EUDL as a paid volunteer can call or text Sgt. Madden at 864-520-6521.