Clearfield police focus on stopping underage alcohol purchases

Nov 29 2010 - 9:37pm

Images

(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner)
THE BUY: An underage girl working with the Clearfield Police Department accepts a case of beer from suspect Caleb Zettel on Saturday during a sting to bust people for providing alcohol to minors at a Maverik location in Clearfield.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) 
THE BUST: Suspect Caleb Zettel is issued a citation for buying beer for an underage girl.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner)
THE BUY: An underage girl working with the Clearfield Police Department accepts a case of beer from suspect Bradley Backus on Saturday during a sting to bust people for providing alcohol to minors at a Maverik location in Clearfield.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) 
THE BUST: Suspect Bradley Backus is issued a citation for buying beer for an underage girl.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner)
THE BUY: An underage girl working with the Clearfield Police Department accepts a case of beer from suspect Caleb Zettel on Saturday during a sting to bust people for providing alcohol to minors at a Maverik location in Clearfield.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) 
THE BUST: Suspect Caleb Zettel is issued a citation for buying beer for an underage girl.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner)
THE BUY: An underage girl working with the Clearfield Police Department accepts a case of beer from suspect Bradley Backus on Saturday during a sting to bust people for providing alcohol to minors at a Maverik location in Clearfield.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) 
THE BUST: Suspect Bradley Backus is issued a citation for buying beer for an underage girl.

CLEARFIELD -- Buying a young woman a six-pack of beer may cost three men more than $800 each in fines.

The woman recently stood in front of three different Maverik Country Stores in frigid weather and asked complete strangers if they would buy a six-pack of beer for her.

She told them she was 20 and legally underage to buy beer.

Police requested that her identity not be revealed, in order to protect her; but she does work for the city, not in the police department, and she is 20 years old.

"I scan them and target the ones who I think will buy me beer," the young woman said. "I never ask anyone who has children with them."

Generally, men between the ages of 21 and 30 will buy the beer for her, she said. Most of those going into the stores told her no, usually politely.

But three men at two of the convenience stores took her $10 bill, bought her a six-pack and then received citations from two Clearfield police officers. The citation is a class B misdemeanor supplying alcohol to a minor, said Lt. Adam Malan.

The citation carries a minimum fine of $827 and a maximum fine of $1,923, Malan said. A judge can also decide to sentence a person to serve six months in jail, if the person's criminal record warrants it.

"I've never bought beer or drank it," the woman said.

Police sent out an e-mail through the human resource department asking if any city employees, younger than 21, were interested in working undercover to buy alcohol.

Those who replied were then screened and interviewed. They also received training about what they can and cannot say when they go inside a business that sells beer or to customers going inside a business.

It is part of the "Eliminate Alcohol Sales to Youth" program with the Department of Public Safety. Clearfield police received state and federal grant funds in order to do compliance checks.

The goal, Malan said, is to have 100 percent compliance, which "means no alcohol being sold to minors, and no arrests on customers who provide alcohol to minors that solicit them for alcohol."

"We want to keep alcohol out of the hands of our kids," Malan said.

According to a pamphlet from the Department of Public Safety, the average age a person will take their first drink in Utah is 12 years old. Also, many of those who are underage get their alcohol from adults and friends, and at grocery stores and convenience stores where strangers will buy for those who are underage.

The three men, two at the Maverik on 300 North and one on Antelope Drive, on Saturday were charged with class B misdemeanor supplying alcohol to a minor.

But the three men were not alone in being cited. On Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, three employees at three businesses that sell beer as part of their menu options also were cited for supplying alcohol to a minor.

The woman walked into the businesses, either alone or with a plain clothes police officer, sat down at a table or at the bar and then asked for a beer.

At Bogey's Social Club, Doolie Wings and Tepanyaki Japanese Steak House, the servers either did not ask for her identification or didn't do the math.

Utah driver's licenses make it pretty clear if a person is underage or not, said Detective Brody Warren.

At Manuel's El Burrito and Crown Entertainment, the woman was carded twice. Both times the server thought the woman's driver's licence indicated she was at least 21, but then after doing a double check, they realized she was not.

At Last Chance Club Inc., right after the woman ordered a beer, the server asked for her identification and then told her she was underage.

"That was undercover," the server said as the woman left the bar.

What the server did not expect was Warren and Sgt. Lee Potts walking in right after the woman left.

The two officers congratulated the server for not selling the beer. They then gave her a pamphlet about the city's program. City officials also will send the business a letter of congratulation, praising them for not selling alcohol to minors, Malan said.

Businesses that sold beer to the woman will be referred to the Department of Public Safety for licensing penalties. Depending on how many times a business has sold beer to an underage customer, the business and the employee could be sanctioned with fines, as well as having its license to sell beer revoked.

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