Undercover youth check businesses for alcohol, tobacco law compliance

Ever wonder how Enumclaw businesses fare when it comes to keeping alcohol and tobacco products out of the hands of underage, would-be buyers? The folks at the Foothills Drug Free Coalition often ponder the same thing and, periodically, hit the streets to test the compliance of local merchants.

Ever wonder how Enumclaw businesses fare when it comes to keeping alcohol and tobacco products out of the hands of underage, would-be buyers?

The folks at the Foothills Drug Free Coalition often ponder the same thing and, periodically, hit the streets to test the compliance of local merchants.

With assistance from the Enumclaw Police Department and a few underage volunteers, the coalition spearheaded a series of “vendor compliance checks” earlier this fall.

Monica Robbins, who heads the FDFC, explained how the undercover operations worked.

In each case, a young volunteer stepped into a local store and attempted to make a purchase, she said. In the end, five retailers sold tobacco to a minor and one retailer was guilty of selling alcohol to a too-young customer.

The alcohol compliance checks were done Sept. 9 and the tobacco checks were completed Sept. 20. In all, 13 Enumclaw businesses were tested.

Once the illegal purchase was accomplished, Robbins said, a police officer entered the store and informed the seller a violation had occurred. But the offending parties also were told of a way to stay out of trouble.

The guilty retailers were given the opportunity to attend an educational class in lieu of a citation. Robbins offers the classes on a quarterly basis at the Enumclaw campus of Green River College.

“Ideally, both owners and employees are invited” to attend, she said. The most recent class was on Oct. 9 and another will come in about three months, Robbins said.

The Foothills Drug Free Coalition — an arm of the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation — is made possible through a federal grant. Money comes from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and, more specifically, its Drug Free Communities program. The local entity received a five-year grant that allocated $125,000 per year. The money is earmarked for everything from educational programs and outreach services to Robbins’ salary.

The Wellness Foundation will soon be applying for additional funding, as the initial grant expires in September 2018.

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