Author: Sgt. Scott Eberle
Date: September 04, 2017 6:55 AM

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

On September 2, 2017, officers with the San Rafael Police Department conducted a Minor Decoy and a Shoulder Tap operation.  As a result of the operation, six adults were cited, and one was arrested for an outstanding warrant.

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.  The two businesses that sold to the decoy were El Burrito located at 927 Lincoln Avenue and Los Moles located at 912 Lincoln Avenue. 

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.  Also, 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 $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service.  Out of the 19 adults the decoy asked to purchase alcohol, four agreed and furnished alcohol to the decoy.  

The following adults were cited as a result of the Minor Decoy Operation:

  • Erick Becerra Galindo, a 40-year-old male from Berkeley.
  • Yenifer Lopez-Barros, a 22-year-old female from San Rafael.

The following adults were cited as a result of the Shoulder Tap operation:

  • David Anderson, a 57-year-old male from San Rafael.
  • Gonzalo Vicente Perucho, a 55-year-old male from San Rafael.  Perucho also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest and was booked into the Marin County Jail.
  • Melquin Brayan Rodas-Mazariegos, a 21-year-old male from San Rafael drove his vehicle up to the decoys and offered to give them alcohol.  He went into his trunk and handed the decoy’s beer after they both told him that they were under 21.  Rodas-Mazariegos was also cited for possession of an open container of alcohol while driving and a suspended driver’s license. He passed a series of Field Sobriety Tests and was released on the citation.
  • When the decoys approached Farley Fleming, a 56-year-old male from San Rafael, he was already drinking a beer.  After he bought beer for the decoys, he was also cited for drinking alcohol in front of a liquor store. 

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: September 04, 2017 9:56 EDT (by Holm)

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