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Operation: Shoulder Tap

Santa Clara County sheriffs hit the streets with teen decoys to catch adults who buy alcohol for minors.

The next time you see a kid skulking around a store with a $20 bill in his hand and a “Pssst, hey buddy can you buy me some beer” line, just shake your head no and keep walking. A handful of adults who got stung Saturday night are probably wishing that’s what they did instead of agreeing to buy beer for the teens who were part of Operation Shoulder Tap.

The decoy operation was a statewide effort funded mostly through a grant by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control. The one-night sting was the largest such sting to-date and involved more than 30 law enforcement agencies, including Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which had teams in Cupertino, Gilroy and the Burbank neighborhood of San Jose.

With officers waiting nearby, minors stood outside stores such as 7-11 and asked adults to buy beer for them. If the adult did, officers made the arrest and issued a citation and a date with a judge. If the adult who did it also had a previous record, that could spell even more trouble, said Sgt. Jose Cardoza who ran the Cupertino operation.

In Santa Clara County five people received a misdemeanor citation and a court date, and one was arrested for parole violation. Statewide there were 140 arrests.

Rick Sung, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s spokesman, said, “108 individuals were arrested for furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors, 32 were arrested for a variety of other crimes including illegal possession of drugs, parole violations, DUI and public drunkenness.”

Shoulder Tap is designed to not only catch people illegally supplying alcohol to people under the legal drinking age of 21, but it helps prevent kids from engaging in dangerous activities such as drunk driving, or breaking other laws, too, Sung said. Additionally, it helps snags other violators.

“They want us to target people who look like they might be intoxicated,” said 19-year-old Kenny, who was one of the decoys. “That way it helps get a drunk driver off the streets, and they get another arrest.”

Someone who is already high is more likely to agree to participate.

“They won’t be thinking,” said Juan, 19, another decoy.

As a privacy protection, the sheriff’s office asked that the teenagers’ last names not be used. All the teens involved in the county operation are part of the sheriff’s department cadet program. The three who worked the Cupertino beat are all also interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement, they said.

The good news for Cupertino is that most of the people approached by the boys at several stores told them no, they would not buy them beer.

But one, who was arrested shortly after 8 p.m., was caught buying a 12-pack of Corona for the boys.

The young woman cited at the 7-11 at 21490 McClellan Rd. told the arresting officers that she didn’t know it was illegal to buy alcohol for teens.

“She’s a regular. She comes in to buy cigarettes,” said Dipinbir Singh, the clerk who was working the night of Shoulder Tap.

Singh said that 7-11 in particular, which is near Monta Vista High School, is known as a hangout for kids, “especially during weekends.”

The penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a minimum $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service, Sung said.

Poot March 15, 2011 at 02:39 PM
lol... didn't know it was illegal to buy alcohol for teens? Why did she think someone was asking her to do it, because they're lazy and she's headed that direction? Let me guess, she's not from around here. Honestly, I see so few kids doing this anymore (like never) that the first thing I'd think of if I was approached is that I was being set up. I'd be tempted just to pocket the money, get in my car, and drive away. The store owner should share a certain amount of responsibility in this, for allowing kids to loiter on his property in the first place.

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