Written by John Szozda
Friday, 17 October 2008 16:15
It’s almost as easy for a minor to buy alcohol in Oregon as it is for an adult.
Seven of 10 stores targeted by the Oregon Police Department in its latest sting sold beer to an underage buyer working undercover.
In three stings this year an astonishing 16 clerks or wait staff have been charged with selling to minors.
This dismal record concerns Tana Schiewer, director of the Oregon Community and Family Coalition, a non-profit hosting a community forum on substance abuse Thursday, 7:00 pm. at Clay High School.
“It’s simply non-acceptable,” she said. “It’s fairly easy to uphold the law. They (the stores) simply aren’t doing it. For seven out of ten to fail indicates a pervasive problem.”
Sadly, two major retailers, Meijer on Wheeling and Kroger on Woodville, were among the offenders. Others were Oregon Fuel Mart on Navarre; Johnny’s On-the-Spot, Woodville Road; Sunoco Food Mart, Woodville; Corner Store, N. Stadium; and Barney’s BP on Navarre.
Barney’s BP and the Sunoco Food Mart are repeat offenders.
The sting took place on September 26, a football Friday, from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. The 20-year-old undercover minor was instructed to purchase alcohol and provide legitimate identification only if asked. The majority of clerks did not ask. But, when asked, the minor presented his vertical driver’s license. This license differs from the horizontal license issued to everyone over the age of 21.
The vertical license eliminates all age calculation by the clerk. The question, “May I see your ID,” has only five words and only one two syllable word, so it defies common sense that employees and managers of these stores would put the Oregon community at risk by not asking to see identification.
Store managers having difficulty educating employees about the seriousness of underage drinking can enroll them in a training program called Responsible Alcohol Sales offered through The Community Partnership. The three-hour course costs $10 per employee.
That’s cheap considering an employee who sells to a minor is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. And, both clerk and store could be held liable should an underage drinker injure or kill someone in a traffic accident
In this latest sting, all seven clerks, six females and one male, were charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Offending establishments can be reported to the Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Penalties assessed by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission could range from a fine or suspension or revocation of the liquor license.
The ease of which juveniles can purchase alcohol in the city may be one of the factors leading to a substance abuse rate that is higher than the average for both Lucas County and the nation, according to Schiewer. She cites a 2006 survey conducted by the Mental Health Recovery Services Board of Lucas County that concluded that, within a 30-day period, 54.8 high school seniors in Oregon drank alcohol compared to 51.4 percent in Lucas County and 45.3 percent nationally.
In the past 21 months alone, 37 minors have been arrested for consumption or possession of alcohol, according to the Oregon Police Department.
This high rate of alcohol abuse will be addressed Thursday at the community forum to kick off Red Ribbon Week. Colleen Wells, a WTOL-TV news reporter, will moderate a panel of experts who will address prevention, treatment and recovery. Officials from the Oregon schools, Cardinal Stritch, the Oregon Police Department and various social service agencies will be on hand to discuss the problem with parents and concerned citizens.
The forum is also sponsored by the Oregon City Schools and Courage to Change.
By the way, the three stores where clerks refused to sell to the undercover minor were Corduroy Carry out, Corduroy Road; Clark Station, 2062 Woodville Rd and Navarre Carryout on Navarre.
For information in the community forum call Tana at 419-720-1708 or go to www.ocfcohio.org. For information about the training program for clerks and wait staff call Adorn Grabarczyk at 419-866-3611.