Seller beware: police cracking down on alcohol sales to minors - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Seller beware: police cracking down on alcohol sales to minors

Lawton_It's surprising just how easy it is for minors to purchase alcohol.  Lawton Police set up 34 stings this week where minors tried to buy liquor.  In seven cases, they did.  To make matters worse, every one of the businesses had been warned about the sting, and they still sold the alcohol.  Now, police are really cracking down. 

Police say the warned them a month ahead of time.  "We spent a whole month doing that - doing nothing but that," says Detective Nancy Lombardo from the Lawton Police Department.  "We didn't write any tickets, we were just telling them."  But, the clerks still fell for it and could face $500 in fines.

Lombardo says the stings are part of a grant from the state.  It pays for a program called "2M2L" or "Too Much to Lose", formally known as "Project Under 21."  And Lombardo says police plan to hit every establishment that sells alcohol in Lawton. 

When the seven businesses failed to comply with the law, Lombardo was surprised by what happened.  She says even when the clerks looked at ID, they still sold the liquor to those under 21.  Some convenience stores even have a way to type in the purchaser's birth date.  A message pops up if the person is underage.  "That's supposed to be a red flag for them," says Lombardo.  "However you can override that and still sell, and that did happen in one case."

Although Lombardo feels bad for the clerks who end up losing their jobs, she says it's all part of their responsibility.  The LPD contacts Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission and they are responsible for punishing businesses that sell alcohol to minors.  "They can also go back in and write them another ticket and ABLE commission tickets are far more than our tickets," she says.

Fluffy's liquor store has already been part of two compliance checks in 2008 - and, they passed.  "We did not sell to minors, one on cigarettes, one on beer," says Fluffy Mason.  "We have a very good history of not selling to minors."  He's happy that Lawton Police are cracking down, but wonders if another way might work better.  "The sting operations - while they do tag a young lady working behind the counter - they don't address the problem," he says.

Fluffy thinks instead of punishing the clerk, who doesn't benefit from selling the alcohol, police should target the buyer.  "Identifying the children that are trying to buy this at a youth age, and getting them some help," he says, "because it can't be stopped just at the merchant level."

Lawton Police hope to stretch the grant money to cover the stings for the whole year.

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