Author: Sgt. Scott Eberle
Date: June 12, 2017 6:45 AM

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

On June 10, 2017, four adults were cited when officers with the San Rafael Police Department conducted a Minor Decoy and a Shoulder Tap operation. 

The Minor Decoy Operation involves minors who work under the direct supervision of the San Rafael Police Department. Out of the twelve businesses the minor attempted to purchase alcohol from, Azteca 2 Market on Fourth Street was the only business who sold to the decoy.  Sergio Alberto Perez Lopez, a 27 year old resident from Novato was cited and released.

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, officers, 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.  Out of the 24 adults, the decoy asked to purchase alcohol, three agreed and furnished alcohol to the decoy.  They were cited and released.

The following adult was cited as a result of the Shoulder Tap operation:

•    David Barlow, 63 year old male from San Rafael.

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

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Last Modified: June 12, 2017 9:46 EDT (by Holm)

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