On Dec. 4, 2012, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) received an $853,000 grant, funding a number of different programs that try to decrease the amount of underage drinking.
The grant was given by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Although OTS awarded the grant, the funds will go to support underage drinking mainly through the suppliance of underage drinkers rather than concentrating on driving under the influence violations committed by minors.
“Actually, it is [grant money] splitting between four programs: Minor Decoy, Shoulder Tap, Trapdoor, and the last program is called Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs (LEAD) Program,” said John Carr, the public information officer of ABC.
The first program, Minor Decoy, is used when underage individuals — under the direct eye of police officers — try to buy alcohol from retail licenses. Retailers who sell to minors may potentially be fined a minimum of $250, given 24 to 32 hours of community service for the first violation or both. ABC may take administrative action as well, resulting in the suspension or permanent withdrawal of the alcoholic beverage license.
A similar program, the Shoulder Tap, aims to catch adults who buy alcohol for minors near or at ABC-licensed businesses. A decoy approaches an adult at or near the license retailer to ask for alcohol, making it clear that they are underage. Again, the minor acts under direct supervision of police officers. The penalty for an adult buying alcohol for minors is a minimum of $1,000 and 24 hours of community service.
Another program is the trapdoor operation.
“Trapdoor operations are when ABC agents and local law enforcement work undercover to check the IDs of people coming into bars and restaurants. They work at the door and when need be, [they] confiscate fake IDs,” Carr said.
The Trapdoor operations’ main goal is to reduce the number of minors with fake IDs, as well as opening leads to find more information about counterfeit operations and ID “mills” that make fake IDs. Minors who are caught with such IDs are at risk of being arrested.
Carr said the programs allow people to see the consequences of selling liquor to minors. Amanda Chen, a second-year cell biology major, said she doesn’t think the programs are unethical due to their intentions.
“It probably works,” Chen said. “I don’t think it’s a trick because they are trying to lower the [age] of drinking alcohol. But I still think it will not ultimately lower the amount of minors acquiring alcohol.”
Although many people think the programs are invasive, numbers show otherwise. Statewide, about one out of five retailers will sell alcohol to minors. The compliance rates are 80 to 85 percent.
In addition to programs catching retailers who sell to minors, ABC makes sure businesses are able to educate themselves on the California state laws on alcohol. The LEAD program provides free, voluntary classes to educate retail licensees, their employees and applicants on alcohol responsibility and the law.
Westlake Market is a local market that has an ABC license to sell alcohol.
“Nobody besides myself [has taken classes offered by ABC]. We don’t require it of anybody. I have taken them since they have been required by other regions,” Westlake Market manager Scott Holmes said.
The grant money will also be directed to 15 mini-grants, which will be awarded to local California enforcement agencies to operate the Minor Decoy and the Shoulder Tap programs.
Many retailers who sell alcohol make sure that they do not sell to minors by requiring anyone who is purchasing alcohol to show IDs.
“We card anybody that looks like they are under 30. We only take United States-issued IDs and passports. We do not take out-of-country ID cards or passports,” Holmes said.
Even with ABC’s efforts, 15 to 20 percent of ABC-licensed businesses are still selling alcohol to minors.
“There is still work to be done in California. We need to educate. Raising community public awareness is a real key to keeping young people safe,” Carr said.
KAMILA KUDELSKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.