Jackson County alcohol compliance checks show decline in sales to minors

Alcohol compliance checks conducted in Jackson County this summer saw a 38 percent decline in illegal sales of alcohol to minors compared to 2008, according to area law enforcement agencies and the Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (JCSAPC).

Of 197 checks this year, 30 (15 percent) resulted in a sale to a minor less than in 2008, when 200 compliance checks revealed 48 sales (24 percent). All vendors, both restaurants and retail stores, were included in the checks.

"We do compliance checks both to remind retailers of the law and to enforce it where necessary," said Matthew Heins, Director of Police and Fire Services, Jackson Police Department.

A compliance check works like this: An underage individual, under supervision of a law enforcement officer, attempts to buy alcohol at a retail business. If the employee making the sale doesn't verify the person's age, and therefore sells to a minor, both the employee and the business will be cited in accordance with the Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998. Selling to minors is a misdemeanor, resulting in monetary fines and possibly loss of the retailer's liquor license.

Not every sale to a minor is done willfully, Heins explained. Sometimes the checkout counter gets busy, and the cashier forgets to verify that the buyer isn't a minor. Even so, it's important for retailers to do everything possible to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"We want to partner with the stores to ensure they have the tools and knowledge necessary to address the issue of selling to minors so we can reach our goal of 100 percent compliance," Heins said. Heins added that compliance checks aren't intended to trap retailers, but to encourage them to make sure that employees know and follow the law.

Funding for the compliance checks is provided through a grant from the Drug Free Communities Support Program. In addition, JCSAPC provides free education to retailers, training half of all alcohol vendors in Jackson County each year on educating employees, proper signage and identifying illegal sales. The vision of JCSAPC is to have a safe and healthy community free of substance abuse. For information, visit www.drugfreejackson.com.

Published: Tue, Nov 04, 2014

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