A■ By Halima Haider / Reporter
$25,000 grant was recently awarded to the San Jacinto Police Department (SJPD) by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in a city-wide attempt to lower, if not eliminate, alcohol-related crime in San Jacinto.
And on Jan. 14, using those grant funds and specially-supervised minors as decoys, San Jacinto police officers cited four clerks for selling alcohol to minors and also cited four adults who purchased the alcohol for minors.
SJPD and ABC agents will combine efforts to enforce stricter screening of patrons buying alcoholic drinks to avoid selling to minors and intoxicated people. The grant will also help curtail the illegal solicitation of alcohol and other criminal activities such as the sale and possession of illegal drugs, said SJPD Sgt. Robert Himmelberg in a news release.
“This is important to the city in order to increase protection for youth,” said San Jacinto Police Chief John Salisbury. “And to shut down problem locations that have contributed to an increase in crime.”
According to the California ABC, communities with a high concentration of alcohol outlets experience a greater number of alcohol-related problems, which often leads to incidents of drug dealing, public drunkenness, drunk driving, underage drinking, assaults and other conditions that breed neighborhood decay.
“The program improves the quality of life in neighborhoods,” said ABC Director Timothy Gorsuch. “We’ve seen a real difference in the communities where the grant program resources have been invested.”
During the grant period, the California ABC’s Special Operations Unit and other enforcement personnel work with the grant agencies and the community to identify and investigate problem alcohol outlets. In addition to undercover investigations, strategies include such programs as Citizen’s Arrest, Cops in Shops, Minor Decoy, Shoulder Tap, and Retail Operating Standards Task Force.
The Minor Decoy Operation involves minors who, working under the direct supervision of officers, attempted to purchase alcohol from 21 retail licensees in the city of San Jacinto. Those who sold to the minor face a minimum fine of $250, and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation. In addition, ABC will take administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the business. That may include a fine, a suspension of the license, or the permanent revocation of the license.
In addition to the Minor Decoy Operation, officers also conducted a Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation, which targets adults who purchase alcohol for people less than 21 years of age. Under the program, a minor under the direct supervision of a peace officer, will stand outside a liquor or convenience store and ask patrons to buy them alcohol. The minor indicates in some way he or she is underage and cannot purchase the alcohol. If the adults agree to purchase alcohol for the minor, officers then arrest and cite them for furnishing alcohol to the minor.
The grant program was created in 1995 to strengthen partnerships between ABC and local law enforcement agencies and has since distributed over $30 million to local law enforcement to combat alcohol-related crime. The penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a minimum $1000 fine and 24 hours of community service.