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Alcohol compliance checks held in Duncan

DUNCAN - People too young to buy beer, wine or liquor were able to buy it anyway in about a quarter of the businesses they walked into recently while taking part in "compliance checks" done in Duncan.

Duncan's troubling compliance rate recorded by the Wichita Mountains Prevention Network has resulted in increased efforts to curb underage drinking in and around Stephens County's largest city. Kim Booker, a certified prevention specialist with the network, said efforts will include compliance checks done more often with assistance provided by the Duncan Police Department, the state's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission and others, including the Pathways to a Healthy Stephens County Coalition. The network also will provide more education and training for store clerks and others who sell or serve alcohol.

Compliance checks are done in strict coordination with law enforcement authorities, who wait nearby as young volunteers walk into convenience stores, bars or other establishments and attempt to buy alcohol. If a clerk or other person breaks the law by serving or selling, that person is written a ticket with a potential fine of up to $1,000, according to Capt. Joe Daniels, special agent in charge of the ABLE Commission in southern Oklahoma. Depending on severity and circumstances, licenses to sell alcohol  including the business proprietor's license  also can be affected, and Daniels said violations can be prosecuted as felony criminal offenses depending on severity.

Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said he hopes businesses involved in serving or selling alcohol will step up their own efforts to make sure employees understand and obey the law. He said the police department will assist in more frequent compliance checks, and he also welcomed the network's plan to provide more educational materials and training  called Responsible Beverage Service and Sales (RBSS) training  to retail clerks, bartenders and others in Duncan. He said a high turnover rate among people who work in those jobs probably contributes to the problem.

"I think we need to enforce (compliance checks) more often and we also need more education and just to make sure people know we are concerned and that we are checking," the police chief said.

According to the Oklahoma State Courts Network, the law allows for people under 21 to volunteer to take part in compliance checks sanctioned and coordinated by law enforcement agencies. Otherwise, people under 21 are strictly prohibited from trying to give the impression that they are older for the purpose of obtaining alcohol. People under 21 who attempt to buy beer or other alcohol can be fined $300 and sentenced to community service and might potentially lose drivers' licenses for up to six months for a first offense.

The Lawton Constitution

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