ABC sting operation under way
By David Bolling INDEX-TRIBUNE EDITOR
Aug 1, 2011 - 09:21 PM
A $25,000 grant from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is now funding an underage sting operation in Sonoma and the Valley, employing at least two underage youth as decoys.
The one-year grant was one of only four given to law enforcement agencies in Northern California and was the second-highest grant in dollar amount.
Underage sting operations typically employ young people to attempt to buy alcoholic beverages in retail establishments without using false identification. Sonoma Police Sgt. Spencer Crum said the rules governing sting operations are fairly strict and police are not allowed to use decoys who look older than their age or are too close to being 21.
Crum would not say how many decoys would be used, their gender or where they will be deployed. Funding began July 1, but the program could not be initiated until Sonoma police were trained in the protocols of conducting stings and were able to recruit decoys. Crum attended a detailed training class and said a week ago that Sonoma police would begin the operation very soon.
Independent ABC sting operations have occurred irregularly in the Sonoma Valley, resulting in a license suspension for one popular Glen Ellen tavern and the loss of the liquor license from the former Plaza Liquors. That store has since reopened under new ownership with an ABC license.
In addition to sting operations, the Sonoma police program will also execute a so-called "shoulder tap" campaign to discourage young people who frequently offer adults - frequently vagrants - money to buy them alcohol while they wait outside liquor and grocery stores.
On top of those efforts, Crum acknowledged that ABC agents had been present at a recent Tuesday night farmers market to discourage under-aged drinkers from imbibing on the Plaza.