Probe finds sales of booze to minors 

Nearly 40 percent of liquor stores and restaurants in northern San Mateo County sold alcohol to a minors during a recent sting organized by both state and local law enforcement agencies.

The high violation rate included 32 percent of people "shoulder-tapped," which refers to the practice of youths asking adults to buy alcohol for them, officials said. In one instance, the individual who was shoulder-tapped by the decoy was only 18 years old and managed to buy alcohol.

The state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, in conjunction with the Pacifica, Broadmoor, Daly City, Colma, South SanFrancisco and Brisbane police departments, conducted the "compliance check" last Thursday.

The sting was two-fold: a shoulder-tap decoy operation in which a decoy, such as a high school student or college student volunteer, approaches individuals outside of stores asking them to buy alcohol on their behalf, and a minor decoy operation, in which the decoy attempted to buy alcohol directly from the store or restaurant.

The sting netted 38 citations for either selling alcohol to a minor or buying for a minor. The six teams, totaling 29 officers, visited 53 stores or restaurants in northern San Mateo County, 21 of which sold alcohol to minors, said John Carr, a spokesman with Alcoholic Beverage Control.

"That is a high violation rate," Carr said, adding that the statewide rate typically was around 16-18 percent. Fourteen locations were busted in Daly City, three in San Bruno, three in Brisbane and one in Colma.

Carr said the shoulder-tap decoy operation approached 50 individuals; 16 purchased alcohol for the decoy.

The task force was strictly targeting juveniles and drinking with the purpose of educating youth and enforcing the law, said Det. Ken Chetcuti of South San Francisco Police.

"It kind of goes hand in hand with this time of year with proms and high school graduation," Chetcuti said.

Chetcuti, who helped organize the compliance check, said the teams focused on the busier stores and restaurants and often received tips from parents, the police tip line and word of mouth on the street.

In violations where the minor decoy went into the establishment, the decoy was not asked for identification or simply gave the clerk his identification — which is real and states the person is underage — with the clerk serving him regardless, Chetcuti said. "They’re not calculating the math properly or they’re not paying attention," he said.

Underage drinking is a "huge problem," said Stephen Wallace, chairman and CEO of Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Children begin drinking at the average age of 13 and by their senior year in high school more than 75 percent of teens are drinking, according to research done for SADD.

"We need to do a better job of limiting access [to alcohol] to young people," Wallace said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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