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A Shot of Prevention

The Oxnard Police Department is more active than most in making life difficult for minors who want to drink alcohol--and for bartenders and liquor store clerks willing to oblige.

Several times a year, Oxnard cops and officers from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control conduct sting operations at bars, restaurants and liquor stores throughout the city. Teenagers, carrying ID cards listing their real age, try to buy beer while an undercover police officer waits nearby. Bartenders or clerks who fail to check ID or sell to them anyway are arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor. Last year, the Police Department received a $70,000 state grant to cut down on alcohol-related problems in Oxnard and to reduce alcohol sales to minors. This year the grant was raised to $100,000.

In 1998, officers tried this gambit at 207 of the city’s 250 businesses licensed to sell alcohol; 31 of them, about 15%, sold alcohol to the minor decoys. Thus far in 1999, visits to 64 establishments have produced 10 violations, about 16%.

Although some people question the use of police time and funds on such an apparently lightweight crime, we believe it is an effort well worth pursuing. The use of alcohol by minors contributes to traffic accidents, domestic violence and other crimes and takes a toll on quality of life in neighborhoods--not to mention the minors’ health and education. Although alcohol abuse is a problem in many communities, a number of recent studies show that the problem is particularly devastating among Mexican Americans.

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We salute the Oxnard Police Department for its efforts. We also offer thanks and an appreciative thumbs-up to the 85% of the city’s bartenders and liquor store clerks who are doing their part to enforce the law.

A tougher part of the problem is private individuals who see nothing wrong with buying or giving booze to those too young to buy it legally. Those people should reconsider whether they are really doing anyone a favor.

Nobody enjoys saying no to a young person who just wants to have a good time. But in light of the damage done by alcohol to the health and safety of Ventura County youth, keeping them away from booze until they have developed a few more years of maturity is not only the legal thing to do, it could also save a life.


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