Waiting at his post, the liquor store clerk looks up to acknowledge his new customer. Deserting the sharp strokes of winter mist, a local officer walks into the store on the N.E. side of OKC. As he senselessly looks at beverages, he discretely watches as a young boy grabs a liter of vodka and heads to the front counter. Out of uniform, the officer heads in the boy’s direction.
Placing the vodka on the counter, the store clerk scans the bottle and asks for ID. Looking back and forth from the ID to the boy, the boy to the ID, “how old are you?” The customer honestly replies, “I’m 18.” “Well, you know, cops send kids like you in here trying to bust us. I’ve been caught before and man, had to pay a lot of money.” He pauses, as if thinking about the consequences he faced before.
Forsaking his gut feeling, “Alright, it’ll be $15.02.” The young shopper hands him a twenty, and as the merchant gives him his change, the boy immediately places it on the counter and heads towards the exit– without the vodka, without the money.
The young boy actually doesn’t want the vodka. Working as a decoy on an alcohol compliance sting, his expectations were to be turned down, especially after confirming his actual age. As he heads to wait safely in the police car, he motions to the other undercover officers that the clerk made the sale.
The officer approaches the counter and places his badge before the clerk. Having heard the entire ordeal, he asks the man how old the boy was. Looking as if he’d been punched in the stomach, the clerk scrambles to explain what happened, but no words could justify his actions. “You’ve been busted for this before, how much did you pay?” “I paid $1,000.” “Well, seeing how this is your second time, you’re looking at paying $5,000. This store even more. And because you didn’t learn the first time and have been blatantly selling alcohol to minors, I’m going to make sure you face jail time.” After a lecture and citation, the cops and decoy leave and head on to the next store.
This is the clerk’s 2nd getting “busted” violating the law, but think of the countless other times he’s likely sold liquor or beer to minors in that community? 12 stores were visited in 73117—this is only 1 of 4 cases in which the store clerk proceeded with the sale of alcohol after checking ID and/or asking for the decoy’s age. That is one-third of stores illegally selling alcohol to minors.
Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with Eagle Ridge Institute, are routinely checking for store compliance, enforcing the law and educating those serving and selling alcohol in the OKC metro area. These operations are important to the community because “alcohol in the hands of minors is dangerous as underage drinking is related to crime, violence, sexual assault, poisonings, injury and car wrecks and engaging in other risky behaviors.”
It is important to report any store, restaurant, merchant and/or business in your community that sells or serves alcohol to minors. You can do so by contacting your local law enforcement via the non-emergency telephone number or using the OKC Crime Stoppers TEXT-A-TIP 405-415-5666, all reports are confidential. If you sell or serve alcohol, do so responsibly by regularly checking ID and declining sales to minors.
“It our job as officers and as a community to do whatever we can to protect our children and make our communities safer.”
Fiscal Agency: Eagle Ridge Institute Funded by: SAMHSA, CSAP, ODMHSAS
601 N.E. 63rd St., OKC, OK 73105, 405-840-1359, http://www.eagleridgeinstitute.com