No Citations in Shoulder Tap Sting

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 26, 2023

Teenage drinking is still a major problem in the U.S. and local police joined a statewide effort to bust people who purchase hooch for kids, however, none of the people here who were approached by underage decoys got cited.

According to MBPD Sgt. Nicole Taylor, on March 11, MBPD joined the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and took part in a statewide “Shoulder Tap” operation. A shoulder tap is when an under-aged police operative (decoy) asks an adult (presumably a stranger) to purchase alcohol for them. If they agree, they can be cited and fined up to $1,000 and 24 hours of community service.

“This enforcement operation,” Sgt. Taylor said, “is designed to create awareness about the dangers of underage drinking throughout California and keep communities safe. The Morro Bay Police Department was one of 77 police departments statewide who participated in the operation.”

She said Morro Bay and ABC agents tried the shoulder tap with 10 different people at five locations in town. None of the people the decoys approached was cited. 

“The 10 people contacted by our minor decoy,” Sgt. Taylor said, “all refused to purchase alcohol for the minor so therefore no one was issued a citation. In two locations, the clerk recognized the minor’s actions and made contact with the minor asking them to leave.”

Morro Bay has just 16 so-called “off-site “ retail liquor licenses, which typically are held by gas station/mini marts, grocery and drug stores, as well as liquor stores and wine tasting rooms. Essentially it means a person can purchase alcohol and take it with them from the store, as opposed to liquor licenses for places like restaurants and bars, where one is served alcohol but cannot leave the premises with it.

How it works is “a minor under the direct supervision of law enforcement stands outside of a liquor or convenience store and asks customers to buy them alcohol. The minor also indicates they are underage and cannot purchase alcohol.”

MBPD Chief Amy Watkins said, “Underage drinking harms our community. Preventing the sale of alcohol to minors will help to increase public safety and make our roads safer.”

The head of ABC, Director Eric Hirata, said, “We conduct these operations to keep alcohol out of the hands of our youth. By preventing underage drinking we can increase the quality of life in our communities and reduce DUIs.” 

Sgt. Taylor said, statistics have shown that young people under the age of 21 have a much higher risk of being involved in a crash than older drivers. About 25 percent of fatal crashes involve underage drinking according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

This operation was funded by ABC’s Alcohol Policing Partnership program and the California Office of Traffic Safety through NHTSA. 

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