Sheriff battles underage alcohol sales |

Sheriff battles underage alcohol sales

by Christy Chalmers, Staff Writer

One of Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini’s favorite topics is the importance of keeping alcohol away from minors.

His department has conducted stings to catch clerks who sell to minors and offered information on spotting fake IDs. Officers have sent commendations to the businesses that passed and warnings to the ones that haven’t.

But apparently the warnings are falling on deaf ears, and Pierini wants the county liquor board to enact a policy for dealing with repeat offenders.

“They don’t realize how serious this is,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of the same businesses that are violators. There hasn’t been much of a learning process.”

Pierini and the five county commissioners act as Douglas County’s liquor board, which has the power to grant and revoke licenses for selling alcohol. Though the board could revoke a business’s license for even one infraction, Pierini said problems have traditionally been handled on a case-by-case basis.

But the problem of repeat violations in selling to minors has grown enough to warrant a specific policy, Pierini said.

Already, people who sell to minors face citations and fines. A new policy could mean calling public hearings where business owners would have to defend their practices. It could also mean mandatory training on recognizing fake IDs and other ploys minors use to get alcohol.

“We understand that there are some very good fake IDs out there, but in some cases we’ve done stings where the clerks don’t even ask for ID, or they do but they don’t look closely at it,” said Pierini. “Businesses need to understand that if they have a person who is constantly doing this, they are going to be held accountable.”

The problem is countywide, Pierini said. A few large grocery stores asked for ID and refused to sell to the teenage decoys on every sting, but most every merchant had at least one lapse in anywhere from three to seven tests.

Pierini hopes the issue will be addressed sometime in January. He told the county commissioners of his concerns Dec. 7 and they indicated they want to address the issue.

“We really need to concentrate on it,” said Pierini. “It’s a problem we have got to fix.”