The city of Paso Robles is using state grant funding to combat underage drinking.
Between March 10 and June 30, the Paso Robles Police Department will be conducting what they call “Decoy Shoulder Tap” operations to send a message that it is illegal for adults to purchase or provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
The operations are part of a joint effort between the city and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which licenses alcohol establishments, and is funded through grants provided by the state Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The operations consist of employing a minor, under the direction of police officers, who will attempt to purchase alcohol from customers at various businesses. If a person sells alcohol to the minor, they will be issued a criminal citation. If a business sells to a minor, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control could take administrative disciplinary action against the licensee.
According to Paso Robles Police Department Lt. Tim Murphy, a citation for furnishing alcohol to a minor includes a $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service.
According to data from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, when the California Supreme Court ruled that municipal police departments could use minor decoys to conduct the operations in 1994, almost one out of every two stores failed to check a minor's age before selling them alcohol. By 1997, that violation rate dropped to less than 10 percent in cities that used shoulder-tap operations on a regular basis.
“These programs support the Police Department’s mission to work with the community to build trust and provide quality service that actively prevents crime, reduces the fear of crime and promotes safety,” according to a department news release.