Law enforcement step up efforts to crackdown on alcohol sales to minors
By Christel Bell| December 9, 2014 at 6:26 AM EST - Updated July 11 at 8:34 AM
HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - There are more efforts to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors this holiday season. Law enforcement agencies across Horry County are stepping up efforts to ensure retailers are following the law.
During the holiday, law enforcement say they tend to see a higher number of minors managing to get alcohol. AET, or the Alcohol Enforcement Team for Horry and Georgetown Counties, is checking any and every business that sells alcohol to crack down on a serious problem.
Elizabeth Clark, AET Coordinator said, “ Any time a minor has access to alcohol, it's a serious problem, even if it's just 1 percent or 5 percent of our youth that has access, its too many.”
So if that means checking bars, restaurants, and liquors stores to protect our kids, AET says that's what they will do.
Right now compliance checks for AET, SLED and local law enforcement have jumped from 40 a month to now 60 to 80; in those checks, an undercover minor is sent into local establishments to buy alcohol, and those caught selling to a minor are fined anywhere from $500 to $600.
“Youth are out celebrating just like adults are out celebrating, so during the holiday time we like to do a little bit more enforcement just to reduce the chances of them having access to alcohol,” Clark said.
AET aims to have no more than a 15 percent violation rate which at the present time, is now at 17 percent.
Clark explained, “ Our focus is to have a 100 percent compliance - that means no one is selling alcohol to minors, however, that's not realistic, but the more operations that we do, the more compliance checks that are done to make the retailer more diligent and know that law enforcement is out there making them accountable.”
According to Clark, underage drinkers tend to take advantage of the holiday season.
“Sometimes it gets busy for retailers and they don't take the two or three seconds to actually look at the ID,” emphasized Clark.
Retailers are not the only ones that could face fines if they violate the law.
Clark explains, “It's also against the law for adults to give alcohol to minors, not just retailers, and often times those are the situations as well, so making the community aware that if you are an adult and you give a youth alcohol you can face fines and be charged as well.”
David Owens, Owner of Owens Liquor, said fake IDs seem to be another problem to watch out for. He said, “We actually have a machines on registers in both stores and we monitor those IDs that way to make sure they are legal IDs.”
Law enforcement said those that sell liquor do have a responsibility to their community to make sure everyone is safe.
Owens said, “We will not sell to minors. That is something we believe in, is taking care of the public and making sure we get out here and get the product in the right people's hands.”
SLED and local law enforcement have conducted about 205 compliance checks since July this year, in that 35 establishments have received citations/fines for selling alcohol to minors.
AET is reminds that the legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 and 18 is the legal age to purchase tobacco products.