State plants decoys to curb underage booze buying

In an attempt to raise awareness and combat the dangers of underage drinking, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in coordination with over 70 law enforcement agencies initiated this weekend a statewide undercover alcohol buying operation.

The 6th-annual “Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation,” will strategically place underage persons throughout the Bay Area that will attempt to have alcohol purchased for them from stores. John Carr, information officer for the ABC, said via email that the operation is an attempt to hold accountable those who provide alcohol to minors:

“The idea is to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and increase public safety. …  The operation also helps with educating as many people as possible including family and friends about why it is so important to keep alcohol away from persons under the age of 21.”

Eight law enforcement agencies from across the Bay Area that will take part in the operation.  The agencies underage decoys will be at undisclosed locations attempting to request alcohol with an undisclosed number of law enforcement standing by, if a purchase is made or if trouble should arise.

Carr said:

“The decoys are chosen from police explorers or cadets, college criminal justice majors and  youth volunteers through high school prevention organizations. …  But, there will always be officers around at all times to ensure the safety of the decoy and anyone else involved.”

According to Carr, there have been more than 400 arrests each year since it began its statewide operation:

“All the arrests were made in a 24 hour period. …  But even more importantly the message that it is illegal to give alcohol to underage youth resonates around the State.

According to the the California Legislative Information website, any person who sells, furnishes, or gives any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined $1,000.

Funding for law enforcement to be able to take part in the program comes in the form of grants.  According to the ABC website grants are offered to selected agencies to expand their efforts in addressing alcohol-related problems.

Carr said:

“The grants offered through our Grant Assistance Program can vary from $25,000 to $100,000.”

According to the California Code of Regulation, Rule 141, there is no entrapment when using underage decoys.  The rule states that a law enforcement agency may:

“… use a person under the age of 21 years to attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages to apprehend licensees, or employees or agents of licensees who sell alcoholic beverages to minors.”

The operation come less then a week before St. Patricks Day, which according to Carr is strategic due to the holidays reputation for alcohol being present at many celebrations.

Carr said:

“The most important thing is to educate. … We want people to make good choices and keep safe.”