COVINGTON - Beginning July 24 the Covington Police Department, led by compliance/operations lieutenant Wendell Wagstaff and a specialized patrol division, led an undercover operation into underage alcohol sales at all off-premise sales establishments – anywhere you can buy alcohol and take it with you – inside the city limits of Covington. Of the 37 establishments, 10 clerks at 10 different locations sold alcohol to teenagers posing as adults able to buy alcohol.
Wagstaff and his team took 18 year-olds into establishments equipped with hidden cameras to attempt to purchase alcohol and told the clerk they didn’t have ID. At the stores for the clerks that didn’t sell to the undercover minors, the undercover minor would just leave.
“As soon as they make a purchase then they go to a meeting spot close by the store and then they give the information of what just occurred to the officers. Then the officers – in uniform, in a police car – go right back to the store within minutes of the purchase and issue a citation to the clerk that sold [the alcohol],” Philip Bradford, CPD Patrol Division Captain, said.
The clerk, not the store, receives the citation of furnishing/sale of alcohol to a minor under 21 years of age with a fine of $987 and will have to appear in municipal court. However, if a store were to have repeated violations, that store could potentially lose its alcohol license.
“Typically what we see is, sometimes it’s usually the newer employees that are doing it, not properly trained or think they can get away with it,” Wagstaff said. “Typically your older employees that’s been there a while will card everybody that looks like they’re under the age of 21 or close to it.”
Wagstaff, who usually conducts these operations twice a year, says that 10 out of 37 is a little high and he hopes to get the message out to make sure that clerks card anyone that looks close to under 21 years of age.
“The community wants safe drivers out there. The ramifications of underage drinking go pretty deep. Not only could people that sell to underage [consumers] be held criminally [liable] they can also be held civilly [liable],” Wagstaff said. “We want to make sure to make a point to the convenience store owners and the liquor store owners that we’re not gonna tolerate them not carding people that are underage. There are gonna be consequences for that. We’re gonna be checking them periodically now to make sure that there’s no alcohol being sold to minors because they go out there and they drink and they have an accident. They’re putting themselves in danger, they’re putting other drivers in danger.”