Author: Sgt. Scott Eberle
Date: November 28, 2016 2:31 PM

San Rafael Police Department Runs Decoy Operation in Attempt to Reduce Underage Drinking

On November 26th, officers with the San Rafael Police Department conducted a Minor Decoy and Shoulder Tap operation.  As a result of the Shoulder Tap operation, officers cited four adults who purchased alcohol for minors, two of them were also booked on separate outstanding warrants. An additional male was booked on charges of DUI after he pulled up to the liquor store to purchase more alcohol and displayed signs and symptoms of intoxication. While decoys were conducting the Shoulder Tap operation, four juveniles were warned for also attempting to get adults to purchase them alcohol.  The juveniles were from Novato.  As a result of the Minor Decoy Operation, no clerks were cited of the 11 different liquor establishments where the decoys attempted to purchase alcohol.

The Minor Decoy Operation involves minors who work under the direct supervision of the San Rafael Police Department. The minors attempted to purchase alcohol from 11 retail licensees in San Rafael.  There were no buisnesses who sold to the decoys.

When retailers sell to a minor they face a minimum fine of $250, and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation.  In addition, ABC will take administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the business where alcohol was sold to a minor.  That may include a fine, a suspension or the permanent revocation of the license.

In addition to the Minor Decoy Operation, San Rafael Police officers also conducted a Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation. A Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation targets adults who purchase alcohol for people less than 21 years of age.  Under the program, a minor under the direct supervision of a peace officer will stand outside a liquor or convenience store and ask patrons to buy them alcohol.  The minor indicates in some way he or she is underage and cannot purchase the alcohol. If the adults agree to purchase alcohol for the minor, agents, then arrest and cite them for furnishing alcohol to the minor.  The penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a minimum $1000 fine and 24 hours of community service.

The following adults were cited during the Shoulder Tap Operation:

  • Knechtli, Catherine, 61 year old female from Mill Valley
  • Sanders, Jimmy, 57 year old male from San Rafael
  • Katonibau, Eroni, 62 year old male from Fairfax
  • Dunlap, Armani 26 year old male from Fairfield

Dunlap and Sanders were booked into jail for separate outstanding warrants.

While officers were conducting the Shoulder Tap operation, Robert King, 60 year old male from San Rafael drove up to the liquor store to purchase more alcohol.  He exhibited signs and symptoms of intoxication and failed a series of Field Sobriety Tests.  He was double the legal limit and was booked into Marin County Jail.

ABC is conducting the compliance checks statewide to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors.  Statistics have shown that young people under the age of 21 have a higher rate of drunken driving fatalities than the general adult population.

Minor Decoy operations have been conducted by local law enforcement throughout the state since the 1980’s.  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 has dropped in some cities 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. 

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) through the department’s Grant Assistance Program.  ABC is a Department of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

# # #

Last Modified: November 28, 2016 5:33 EST (by Holm)

Copyright © 2011 San Rafael Police Department