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MailTribune.com
  • Four of 10 stores sell alcohol to minor in Medford OLCC sting

    Police find clerks putting in fake birthdates to sell alcohol to an underage decoy
  • Ten times Monday, a 20-year-old man working as a decoy for the Medford Police Department walked into a Medford convenience store armed with only his true identification, and four times he walked out with beer.
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  • Ten times Monday, a 20-year-old man working as a decoy for the Medford Police Department walked into a Medford convenience store armed with only his true identification, and four times he walked out with beer.
    In two cases, the clerks ignored the cash register's denial of the sale because a scan of the man's license revealed he was underage, but they punched in a fake birthdate on their own to seal the deal.
    "They flat-out overrode the security system," says Medford police Officer Richard Renfro, who oversees the city's project that uses minor decoys to see whether they can buy alcohol. "We didn't have that back when I started this in 1998."
    Not exactly stellar compliance with Oregon Liquor Control Commission standards that ban sales to underage, would-be drinkers.
    But it's what Renfro expected after Medford police Monday ran their first minor decoy compliance checks here in a decade, with all four offending clerks cited on a misdemeanor offense of the city's municipal code banning the furnishing of alcohol to a minor.
    More such compliance checks are planned for the future, with at least one here before the end of the month, Renfro says.
    And like restaurant owners who don't want to see their establishment with a marginal health inspection, store owners likely are going to make sure more of their clerks follow the law, he says.
    "I would suspect the numbers will go down as we do more of these compliance checks," Renfro says. "A big part of this is educating the clerks."
    The OLCC occasionally does similar compliance checks here, but the city's return to the program it disbanded in 2003 is part of an effort to reduce the opportunities for minors to get alcohol, says Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.
    "We're getting back into this," Budreau says. "We realize over and over the dangers of juveniles buying alcohol. Nothing good becomes of it."
    During Monday's compliance checks, the 20-year-old Southern Oregon University student looked and dressed his age, Renfro says. If asked, he was to provide his true age, and if prompted, he had to produce his true Oregon driver's license, Renfro says.
    Monday's effort targeted primarily convenience stores chosen randomly among OLCC licensees, police said.
    Along with the two clerks who overrode the register's security check, one store clerk asked for the identification but sold the alcohol anyway, police said. One clerk did not ask for identification or the age of the decoy, police said.
    Six stores all correctly checked the decoys' identification, police said.
    When Renfro started this program in 1998, nine of the first 12 stores sold the decoy beer, he says. Within six months, the illegal sellers were down to two or three per check, he says.
    "I have never gone out, not once, when (the decoy) didn't buy alcohol," Renfro says.
    Medford police identified the stores that sold alcohol to the decoy Monday as: Peach Street Market, 424 S. Peach St.; the Minute Market at 2608 E. Barnett Road; the Shell Station at 1968 Crater Lake Highway; and the Bi-Mor Station at 4999 Crater Lake Highway.
    Those that complied with the law and did not sell alcohol to the decoy were identified as: 7-Eleven markets at 3001 Crater Lake Ave. and 2297 W. Main St.; the Spirit Station at 1325 Court St.; the Country Store at 1670 Kings Highway; the Minute Market at 458 Highland Drive; and the Short Stop Market at 3320 N. Pacific Highway.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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