The night of Feb. 15, six of 16 convenience stores checked by the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office sold alcohol to underage teenagers, according to Sheriff Ken J. Mascara.
“That’s more than one-third of the stores our undercover operation visited, and that’s too many stores illegally selling alcohol to people under 21,” Sheriff Mascara said. “This confirms information I’ve been receiving in phone calls from concerned parents, that underage children are able to buy alcohol in stores in St. Lucie County. We don’t want young people drinking and driving, and we don’t want them violating the law.”
Sheriff’s School Resource Deputies conducted the undercover operation. Sheriff's Office cadets acted as teenagers older than 18. State law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to those under 21.
Cadets are Indian River Community College students who attend school in the morning and work at the Sheriff's Office in the afternoon. When the cadets graduate from the police academy and community college, they become candidates for permanent sworn positions at the Sheriff's Office.
“We planned to visit stores throughout St. Lucie County Thursday night, but we didn’t get south of Midway Road due to the number of violations we found,” Sheriff Mascara said. Violators at the convenience stores were charged with the misdemeanor of illegal sale of alcohol to those under 21 and given notices to appear in court to face the charge.
The School Resource Deputy unit conducts undercover operations throughout the year to check stores’ compliance with laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to those younger than 21.
“Our only goal is compliance and not making large numbers of arrests,” Sheriff Mascara said. “Unfortunately, some store proprietors require an incentive stronger than words.”