A Thursday night, July 14, police decoy operation to combat underage alcohol purchases resulted in no arrests and all merchants observing alcohol sales laws.
“All businesses we attempted to buy from complied with alcohol laws and refused to sell to the potential underage purchasers we sent in,” said Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Carrillo. “This speaks highly of the merchants we have in town.”
Carrillo said the department teamed with California Alcohol Beverage Control using minor-aged decoys to ensure that businesses selling alcoholic beverages were in compliance with not selling alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age.
The department used three different individuals, aged 18 to 20, under the direct supervision of officers, to enter 18 retail ABC licensed establishments in the city. The decoys attempted to purchase alcohol from the store clerk.
Carrillo said all of the establishments visited were diligent in their efforts to curb the access of alcohol to minors and denied the sale.
“Those 18 businesses that were surveyed had a 100 percent success rate and should be commended for their efforts to reduce underage drinking and keeping our community safe,” Carrillo said.
If a clerk had sold to the minor, that clerk would face a minimum fine of $250, and/or perform 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation. In addition, ABC would take administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the business. Those actions include a fine, a suspension of the license, or the permanent revocation of the license.
In addition to the 18 businesses, the operation also included “shoulder taps” with the decoys standing outside the store asking customers to buy them alcohol at three different locations. None of the customers agreed to make the purchases.
Minor Decoy operations have been conducted by local law enforcement throughout the state since the 1980s. According to figures provided by California ABC, when the program first began, the violation rate of retail establishments selling to minors was as high as 40 to 50 percent. When conducted on a routine basis, the rate dropped in some cities to as low as 10 percent, or even below.
In 1994, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that use of underage decoys is a valid tool of law enforcement to ensure that licensees are complying with the law.