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Police Hold 'Shoulder Tap' Operation

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By Lookout Staff

August 10, 2022 -- How many adults in Santa Monica would buy liquor for a minor? Police set out to answer that question last Friday.

They conducted an underage Decoy Shoulder Tap operation outside four Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) licensed retail establishments within the city.

The decoy, who was under the age of 21, was supervised by SMPD Investigators who remained outside the establishment, police said.

The decoy asked adult patrons entering the store to buy an alcoholic beverage on their behalf.

Of the 46 adults approached by the decoy, only one was issued a misdemeanor citation for "furnishing a minor with alcohol," police officials said.

"Underage Decoy Shoulder Tap operations are focused on adults who knowingly furnish alcoholic beverages to minors," said Lt. Rudy Flores, the Police Department spokesman.

"The goal is to reduce substance abuse and enhance community welfare by limiting underage access to alcoholic beverages."

The California Supreme Court paved the way for Shoulder Tap operations when it ruled in 1994 that minor decoys could be used by law enforcement to check whether stores were selling alcohol to minors.

At the time, the violation rate was nearly 50 percent, according to the the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

"In some cities, almost one out of every two stores failed to check a minor’s age and sold them alcohol," ABC officials said.

By 1997, the violation rate had "dramatically decreased" in cities that used the program on a regular basis.

"Minors then turned to the 'shoulder tap' method of getting alcohol by standing outside of a liquor store, market or gas station and asking adults to buy them alcohol," according to ABC's website.

Friday's operation was part of ABC's Minor Decoy/Shoulder Tap Grant Project funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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