All 15 Upvalley businesses targeted in a recent sting operation acted correctly when an underage decoy attempted to purchase alcohol and/or tobacco.
The St. Helena and Calistoga Police Departments carried out the operation in early August, according to a news release. Decoys under the age of 21, under the direct supervision of officers, attempted to purchase alcohol and/or tobacco from 15 retail dealerships in St. Helena and Calistoga.
All 15 locations targeted by the operation engaged in responsible alcohol and tobacco sales by asking the attacker’s age and/or identification. All employees refused to sell alcohol and tobacco to minors.
St. Helena Police carried out the operation as part of the California Department of Justice’s grant for the School Resource Officer position.
Minor decoy operations have been conducted by local law enforcement throughout California since the 1980s. In 1994, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the use of minor decoys is a valid law enforcement tool to ensure licensees follow the law.
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At the start of the program, the violation rate for retail establishments selling to minors was 40-50%. When done routinely, the rate has dropped in some cities as low as 10% or even below.
Employees of two Saint Helena companies were cited in a similar operation in 2020.