Large number of businesses cited in stings
The Fairfield Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department conducted a series of underage drinking stings on Fairfield businesses Friday night and Saturday morning.
Law enforcement officers cited 10 of the 23 establishments they checked for providing alcohol to an underage person. According to a press release from the police department, this number was abnormally high. The press release stated one or two businesses are normally cited for the offense.
Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey said she was taken aback by the large number of citations. She said it was likely an isolated incident and not indicative of a trend.
“In the 20 years I’ve been here, the most we had prior to this year was three citations,” she said. “This is a huge abnormality. It is off-the-charts weird.”
The police perform two to three alcohol checks per year.
The confidential informants who attempted to obtain alcohol were in fact under 21 years of age. The informants would enter an establishment with an undercover police officer and order an alcoholic beverage.
Harvey said an undercover officer accompanies the informants because of an incident in a different county in which a bar owner assaulted and kidnapped an informant.
The informants used their actual IDs and did not attempt to look more mature than they really were, Harvey said.
“We don’t try to fool anybody by getting someone who looks older,” she said.
The “enforcement saturation” as it is known began at 8 p.m. Friday and lasted through 3 a.m. Saturday. Harvey said the officers wanted to visit every alcohol establishment in Fairfield, but were unable to do so in the time allotted.
“We only had the kids for a certain amount of time,” she said. “The officers attempted to check all of them that night, but they got tied up with other cases, so a couple of businesses were not checked.”
One discovery made during the saturation was clerks who had to punch in the purchaser’s date of birth into the cash register did not sell to underage persons. Harvey said some registers will not accept alcohol sales if the birth date reveals the buyer to be under 21.
The saturation also uncovered that some clerks who look at IDs still sell to underage persons. The police found 50 percent of the clerks or bartenders provided alcohol to an underage person even after asking for the person’s ID.
The Fairfield Police Department and Jefferson County Collaboration Council are attempting to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking in the community. Harvey said it’s disconcerting that so many citations were issued during the weekend considering the time and energy the coalition puts into raising awareness of the issue.
“The SEIDA coordinator offers retail merchants a class on how to read an ID and how to look for a fake ID,” she said. “The class goes through the liability of the clerk and the business. At the beginning of every year, they give out calendars that show a person is under 21 until a certain date. How much more can we do?”
Employees who sold alcohol to the underage informant were issued a fine of $735, which includes the uniform citation of $500, a $175 criminal surcharge and court costs of $60.
While the officers conducted the undercover operations, they issued three citations to individuals who were consuming alcohol in public and arrested two persons for public intoxication.
The funds that made the enforcement saturation possible came from a grant obtained by SEIDA. SEIDA secured the grant after a study showed that Jefferson County had the second highest rate of binge drinking in Iowa.
The study found that:
• 70 percent of Jefferson County youth under the age of 16 have used alcohol;
• 64 percent of Jefferson County youth began drinking before age 13;
• 47 percent of Jefferson County youth under the age of 16 report binge drinking, which is five or more drinks; and
• 23 percent of Jefferson County youth report receiving alcohol at parties.