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History of ABC Law Enforcement


The ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement was created in 1934 chiefly to prevent the manufacture and distribution of illegal alcohol. Over time, the Bureau's duties have expanded to include investigations into underage drinking, illegal drugs, money laundering, tax embezzlement, gambling, counterfeiting and a range of other alcohol-related crimes. The Bureau is also a national leader in alcohol prevention and community education initiatives.

Following is a timeline depicting the evolution of the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement from 1916 until today.



Year Event
1916 The Virginia Prohibition Commission is established and charged with enforcing "the protection of the public health, peace and morals, and the prevention of the sale and use of ardent spirits." The Commissioner, deputies and inspectors have powers of sheriffs of the Commonwealth.
1919 Inspector William E. Payne, Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, is shot and killed while trying to arrest a man for possessing whiskey on February 21. (Inspector Payne is one of five Department of Prohibition Enforcement inspectors killed in the line of duty.)
1922 Efforts are made to improve the image of the Department, including life insurance coverage and increased compensation for inspectors (who often faced extreme danger in pursuing their jobs), and funding for additional staff. Many of these new measures are short-lived due to budgetary constraints.
1933 Virginia citizens vote October 3 to ratify the 21st Amendment, which would end national Prohibition. National Prohibition is repealed when Utah becomes the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment on December 5.

Creation of ABC

Year Event
1934 Virginia becomes a control state and the General Assembly votes to create the first three-member Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board on March 22.
  The Office of the Department of Prohibition is abolished on March 22, and absorbed into the new ABC Division of Enforcement.
1936 The General Assembly grants ABC agents full police powers statewide, giving greater responsibility for enforcing the laws against bootlegging and moonshining. Local and federal officials had originally been expected to perform the enforcement functions, but more help was needed. This law permitted the Department to establish a force of investigators, who over time mounted successful campaigns against illegal liquor in Virginia.
1938 ABC Investigator Thomas Massie Gravely is shot on September 1, while raiding a still in Pulaski County. He dies from his injuries five days later, becoming the first ABC agent killed in the line of duty.
1941 ABC Division of Enforcement seizes an all-time high of 1,771 illegal stills.
1950 ABC Investigator Floyd Fenwick Vincent is killed on January 22, while trying to execute a search warrant on a still in Bland County.
1952 ABC Division of Enforcement purchases unmarked cars, aircraft and radio equipment to increase surveillance of illegal stills.
1962 The Division of Enforcement is divided into three posts of duty: Eastern District, Central District and Western District. Although illegal still seizures drop to 823, gallons of mash seized increases by 77,000, indicating the mashing capacity of stills has increased.
1972 Education and training of enforcement personnel is given high priority, including "technical, tactical, legal and expert training" at the Tidewater Police Academy. Another training program permits law enforcement personnel to attend seminars and participate in class discussions held at state universities.
1983 The ABC Illegal Whisky Task Force is formed in Rocky Mount.
  The Youth Alcohol Abuse Prevention Project (YAAPP) is formed and its first statewide conference is held at Roanoke College. A few years later, drug prevention is added to the mission of YAAPP, thus creating Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP).
1986 First ABC-sponsored College Conference takes place. The event has continued annually ever since. It is the oldest continuously operating conference focusing on alcohol abuse prevention for college students in the country.
1993 ABC agents uncover 36 800-gallon pots during a raid on a still in Pittsylvania County, the largest size still bust in the commonwealth's history.
1998 ABC's Illegal Whisky Task Force seizes the largest single amount of illegal whisky in 20 years in Franklin County.
  ABC special agents are put in charge of conducting underage alcohol and tobacco compliance checks.
1999 Operation Lightning Strike, a joint effort by ABC, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Internal Revenue Service and the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Department, uncovers a complex illegal whisky network based in Franklin County.
2001 ABC receives the Governor's Transportation Safety Award for its None For The Road campaign.
2002 ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement is named National Agency of the Year by the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association for its assistance with rescue, recovery and security efforts at the Pentagon following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
2008 ABC receives national and state awards for implementing the Alcohol and the Aging initiative and leading the formation of the Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group.
  ABC initiates a partnership with the U.S. military to educate soldiers and sailors based in Virginia about the commonwealth's alcohol laws.
  ABC establishes the Community Advisory Council, a regional forum designed to increase communication between the agency, licensees, community organizations and citizens.
2009 ABC celebrates its 75th anniversary.


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