Pacifica Police Run Sting to Catch Local Businesses Selling Liquor to Minors; One Arrest Made

Sting made possible by $5,000 in grant funding to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors.

After receiving a mini-grant of $5,000 from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), Pacifica Police put local ABC-licensed establishments to the test. 

Last Friday, March 25, police conducted what is called a "minor decoy operation." 

This operation evaluates whether or not ABC-licensed businesses, such as a bar or liquor store, are following the law which prohibits the sale of alcohol to persons younger than the legal drinking age of 21.

According to the ABC, a minor decoy operation "allows local law enforcement agencies to use persons under 20 years of age as decoys to purchase alcoholic beverages from licensed premises"

14 businesses were subject to the Pacifica Police Department's recent operation, and all but one did not sell alcohol to the minor decoy. 

An employee of , located on 757 Hickey Boulevard, was arrested following the sale of alcohol to the minor decoy. 

The Pacifica businesses that were tested and did not sell alcohol to minors were , , Rite Aid (in both Fairmont Shopping Center and Linda Mar Shopping Center), Lucky’s, Safeway (in both Manor Shopping Center and Linda Mar Shopping Center), , , , New Sun Valley Dairy Store, 7-11 (Manor Dr.), and .

ABC-licensed establishments that sell alcohol to minors face two penalties, one criminal and the other administrative, said Sergeant Daniel Steidle of the Pacifica Police Department.

For example, the employee of Ernie's Wine and Liquors faces criminal charges for selling alcohol to a minor and the liquor store could also face an administrative penalty from the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control in the form of a fine.

In some cases, a business could have their license to sell alcohol revoked altogether. 

When conducting these operations, Sergeant Steidle said that the safety of the minor decoy is of high importance. 

"More often than not, there's an officer within a short distance,” he said. “We have a lot of safety precautions."

A background check is conducted on the minor decoys, and in most cases the youth would have previously worked with the police department either as a volunteer or intern, said Steidle.

Another type of operation that is funded by the ABC grant is called a "shoulder tap operation," and it also employs under-age decoys. 

Unlike the minor tap operations in which an under-age youth will attempt to purchase alcohol from an establishment, decoys of a shoulder tap operation will ask of-legal-age patrons of ABC-licensed businesses to buy them alcohol.

If any adult is found supplying a minor with alcohol, they can be arrested. 

In conjunction with a $100,000 dollar ABC-grant awarded to the Pacifica Police Department in 2009, 107 arrests were made from shoulder tap operations in 10 cities within San Mateo County. 

The $5,000 mini-grant will fund operations through June of this year.

"I really believe in the program and I've seen the results," said Steidle. "If I can go through the night and not make a single arrest, I consider that a win."


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