The latest sting operation carried out by local sheriff’s deputies, aimed at people who put alcohol in the hands of minors, netted two violations recently.
Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Community Partnerships, or COPS, Bureau met up last Thursday with agents of the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to carry out two types of sting operations.
“Because of recent DUI’s and people injured or killed as a result, we want to make sure business establishments selling alcohol are staying within the guidelines of the law,” Capt. Robert Lewis said of the recent operation.
Stressing the need to eliminate impaired driving, Lewis singled out the October death of Katie Evans, a mother of six who was killed in traffic collision that resulted in the arrest of a woman on suspicion of murder and driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Santa Clarita (Valley) is a home for families,” Lewis said. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘How are we impacting families?”
The answer, Lewis believes, is in making sure the more than 420 restaurants and stores licensed by the state to sell alcohol in the SCV are doing it legally.
Thursday’s series of sting operations was led locally by Deputy Sheklow with the help of plainclothes undercover ABC agents and one underage volunteer “decoy.”
The operation carried out two types of sting operations.
Here’s how the first sting works:
A minor goes into a bar followed at a short distance away by a plainclothes undercover deputy. The kid, between 16 and 20 years old, sits down at a table and, when the waiter arrives, orders a beer.
If he’s asked his age, the kid answers honestly, giving the waiter his real age. If he’s asked to produce identification, the kid hands the waiter a valid ID showing he is clearly under 21 and not allowed by law to purchase alcohol.
If the waiter brings him an alcoholic beverage, the kid and the undercover watching him walk out of the bar and alert uniformed officers to the violation.
The uniformed deputies notify the owners and/or managers of the bar that the business has violated state liquor laws.
Retail businesses are prohibited in California from knowingly allowing an underage person to consume alcohol on their premises. If they do, they face a misdemeanor charge, the maximum penalty for which is a fine of $1,000 and one year in county jail.
Sheklow and his team executed the sting on nine SCV businesses licensed to sell alcohol nine times Thursday, netting one business for the violation of selling alcohol to a minor.
Shoulder tap sting
The second type of sting operation carried out Thursday is called the “Shoulder tap” and works like this:
A minor, again between 16 and 20, usually the volunteering son or daughter of a deputy, stands outside a store that sells alcohol and asks adults as they enter the store to buy them an alcoholic beverage.
The team executed the “shoulder tap” sting just once at Art’s Liquor on Soledad Canyon Road near Sierra Highway, and snared a man in the sting, arresting one man.
The offense, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
Every year, the SCV Sheriff’s Station, as is the case with all law enforcement agencies in the state, gets a chance to apply for a state grant to conduct the operation.
Lewis promised to remain vigilant in his crackdown on violators of state liquor laws.
“I’m putting them on notice,” he said about licensed establishments conducting operations that make sure you are in compliance.”
The mission of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is to provide the highest level of service and public safety to the people of the State through licensing, education, and enforcement.
Lewis wants to ensure that same standard is maintained in the SCV.
“We’re going to run multiple (sting) operations over the course of the year,” he said. “We want to get the information out there and make sure these establishments are being kept in check.”
“Breaking liquor laws and DUIs — these are going hand-in-hand,” he told The Signal, referring again to the death of Katie Evans.
Evans, a mother of six, was killed on Oct. 6, in a traffic collision on Golden Valley Road, after a motorist hit the center median and crashed into her vehicle on the northbound side of the road, said prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against a 21-year-old charged with murder.
Alexia Alilah Cina, 21, charged with murder is scheduled to appear in court on March 6.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt