San Diego

‘Drunk Decoy Operation,' Officer Tries to Buy Alcohol, Tests Stores in College Area, Lemon Grove

One officer dressed in plain clothes was sprayed down with an unusual cologne: a bottle of bourbon

Undercover San Diego law enforcement put on a show at eight stores Saturday to test store clerks' responses to intoxicated individuals trying to purchase alcohol.

NBC 7 got an inside look into Saturday’s “Drunk Decoy” operation, a joint operation between the San Diego Sheriff’s and Police Departments, which aims to cut down on alcohol-related crime in San Diego.

Before entering one liquor store in the College Area, an officer dressed in plain clothes was sprayed down with an unusual cologne: a bottle of bourbon.

The undercover officer stumbled inside with his new scent, slurred his words, grabbed some beers and tested the store clerk's willingness to sell him alcohol.

Some stores followed the rules, but not all.

“I fell into the register and I fell backward and stood up, paid for my beer and that was it,” the undercover officer said after exiting one store with a beer in hand.

Three of the eight businesses, two in Lemon Grove and one in the Collge Area, sold alcohol to the decoy, SDSO released.

“[The cashier] looked at me and he did hesitate with his look, but he still accepted the money and he didn’t ask me how drunk I was. He asked for an ID and I fumbled with my ID and gave it to him,” he added.

If a store did sell alcohol to the drunk decoy, officers went into the store and educated employees and management about the incident.

drunk decoy store
San Diego Sheriff's Department

“If they were to actually sell to somebody that was intoxicated, that would be a misdemeanor,” Lt. Karla Menzies with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said.

Saturday’s exercise was just a warning, but a store could potentially lose their liquor license if they keep selling to people who are visibly intoxicated.

“When we started doing these operations five, six years ago, we didn't have any compliance,” Menzies said.

In the future, the goal is to have no stores selling alcohol to people who are intoxicated, she said.

Saturday's educational operations and future operations up to June 2020 are funded by two $100,000 grants, one for each department, from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

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