Charges were filed in Carter County District Court Friday alleging that nine clerks at area convenience stores sold alcohol to minors during a multi-agency sting operation between members of the Ardmore Police Department, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.
According to District Attorney Craig Ladd, the sting operation involved underage males and females making undercover “buys” under the supervision of law enforcement.
“The sting operation came about as a result of several citizen complaints about the ease with which underage people, including teenagers in high school, could enter local convenience stores and purchase beer,”Ladd said. “It represents an effort by Sheriff (Chris) Bryant and Chief (Ken) Grace to work with our office to combat a very troubling issue.”
The clerks are being charged with selling of beer to a minor, a misdemeanor in Oklahoma punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $500.
“It should be noted that roughly 75 percent of the clerks approached during this sting operation by underage patrons refused to sell them beer,” Ladd said. “Nevertheless, the fact that 25 percent of the clerks sold to them is obviously a big problem. Hopefully if word gets out that a criminal prosecution awaits for clerks who are caught selling to minors, then it will deter this type of conduct.”
Bryant mentioned the documented effects of alcohol on developing minds as a driving force behind the operation.
“We put a team together and launched in Ardmore and the county as well,” Bryant said. “It’s unfortunately pretty common, so we wanted to send a message that this is not going to be tolerated. We wanted to let the citizens of Carter County know that this is something that is unacceptable. They need to card and ID people. They need to be diligent.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol consumption by youths can cause changes in brain development that may have life-long effects, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, higher risk for suicide and homicide and abuse of other drugs among other consequences.
“We find out (about underage drinking) through investigations and through concerned parents,” Bryant said. “If they don’t tell us that their youngster is coming home intoxicated or inebriated, we don’t have anyway to combat that. The security and safety of our young people is highly critical.”
According to the CDC, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers which is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year. Youth who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.