The Westside Impact Project has announced it conducted an operation during the week of June 23 to determine if Santa Monica alcohol businesses are carding minors. The effort, dubbed a “Recognition and Reminder” operation, utilized a young-looking over-21-year-old who attempted to purchase a six-pack of beer at 10 liquor stores in Santa Monica. If the sales clerk asked for identification, the decoy presented a card congratulating the establishment for properly checking ID. If the sales clerk failed to ask for identification, the decoy presented a card ‘reminding’ the vendor that checking ID prevents sales to minors. Three of the 10 establishments involved in the operation failed to ask for identification when the decoy attempted to purchase alcohol.
The Westside Impact Project conducted the operations as a part of a county contract to reduce underage and binge drinking in Santa Monica. The Project is focused on the primary points of underage access to alcohol – retail and social environments. The data indicates that underage drinking and minors’ access to alcohol are issues of concern in Santa Monica. In the 2011 California Healthy Kids Survey, 75 percent of Santa Monica High School juniors reported that alcohol was “Very Easy” to get. Twenty-six percent reported engaging in at least one episode of binge drinking (five or more drinks in one session) within the previous 30 days.
Recognition and Reminder operations carry no real legal consequences for alcohol establishments. They are intended to positively reinforce good business practices. Recognition and Reminder initiatives have long been used as a tool in preventing tobacco sales to youth and are increasingly being used prevention efforts. The premise is that public recognition and reward of good behavior for stores and clerks who do the right thing reduces illegal sales even faster than enforcement, which is saved for people who are intent on breaking the law.
The team conducting the operations also notified the retailers that Santa Monica Police Department will be conducting Minor Decoy Operations over the next year. In Minor Decoy Operations, under law enforcement direction, a ‘decoy’ younger than 20 years of age attempts to purchase alcohol at licensed establishments. A first-time sale may result in a fine or license suspension. A second sale to a minor within a three-year period is an automatic license suspension. A third sale to a minor within a three-year period may result in license revocation.
According to the Westside Impact Coalition – a group of parents, residents, educators, business people and community leaders who advise the Westside Impact Project – the overall intent of all these initiatives is to create a powerful deterrent effect amongst retailers that will result in reduced alcohol sales to minors. The Coalition will be conducting additional Recognition and Reminder operations over the course of the next year.
For more information about the Westside Impact Project, visit www.westsideimpactproject.org or follow their work at @westsideimpact on Facebook and Twitter.