The Westside Impact Coalition, a community group committed to reducing alcohol-related harms in Santa Monica and Venice, says its “Recognition and Reminder” pseudo-decoy operations, which check if alcohol retailers are carding minors, are having a positive effect on Santa Monica liquor stores. This week the coalition announced the results of its fall operations, which resulted in 100 percent compliance; all 10 stores visited asked for ID before selling alcohol.

Modeled after law enforcement’s Minor Decoy Operations, the coalition’s Recognition and Reminder program sends a young-looking volunteer over-21 into a liquor store or market to purchase a pack of beer. Clerks who ask for ID to verify legal age before the sale are given a recognition card, while clerks who do not ask are given reminder cards. Each business visited receives a follow-up letter detailing the outcome of the store visit and notifies store owners that the Santa Monica Police Department is doing real Minor Decoy Operations, which carry actual legal consequences for sellers.

The coalition has conducted over 80 Recognition and Reminder operations at liquor stores and markets around Santa Monica since June 2014. Project representatives say they have seen the number of stores who regularly check ID trending upward.

Officials said they are excited to see each time they go out, that more stores are consistently asking for ID before completing the sale. They said this tells them people are aware of current enforcement and are being mindful of sales practices, which is extremely beneficial to the community.

The Project also notes there are exemplary stores who have consistently received recognition each visit. Bill’s Liquor on Lincoln Boulevard is one of those model stores. Bill’s has been visited over five times in the past year, and has successfully carded the decoy each time.

“It’s important for us to be good community partners, and we’re careful to card anyone who looks under 30,” said Tilly Ruiz, owner of Bill’s Liquor. “We think the Recognition and Reminder operations are very positive for the community, and a good reminder that the police department is enforcing the laws.”

The Westside Impact Coalition will continue its Recognition and Reminder operations into next year. In addition, over the next six months the Santa Monica Police Department will be conducting real Minor Decoy Operations at alcohol establishments throughout Santa Monica.

– Submitted by Dana Sherrod, Prevention Coordinator