“Shoulder Tap” nets one violator

“SHOULDER TAP” enforcement is aimed at keeping alcohol from minors (Flickr photo/Thomas Hawk).

Ever been approached by a teenager in the parking lot of a liquor or convenience store and asked if you would buy him or her some alcohol?

If you did – or ever do – you’re running the risk of an arrest and fine. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is a crime, and the Westminster Police Department recently took part in a statewide “Shoulder Tap” operation in which minor decoys asked adults headed into stores to purchase liquor for them.

Detectives and their decoys on March 11 went to five locations in Westminster and the youths solicited alcohol from 25 people. Only one person agreed and was issued a citation.

The decoy program dates back to 1994 when the California Supreme Court ruled that the use of those under the age of 21 in the enforcement of alcohol laws was legal. At that time, according to the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the violation rate of stores willing to sell liquor to minors was nearly 50 percent.

The use of minor decoys cut the rate to less than 10 percent where that program was in place. Youngsters then turned to approaching customers – the “shoulder tap” – to ask them to buy the liquor for them. This decoy operation is aimed as curbing that practice.

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