The Marinette County Sheriff’s Department and the Marinette County Health Department recently teamed up to conduct an alcohol compliance check, something the two departments have been doing for several years. We like the way they handled the latest check and we think they should continue doing so in the future.  

Let’s face it. Underage kids sometimes like to challenge the system when it comes to alcohol-related activities. They’ll find ways to purchase beverages that contain alcohol. Fun-seeking young people, who prefer not to wait until they are of legal age, will take their chances. Sometimes those chances turn upside down and bad things happen. 

Some of the blame here also extends to the retail markets where alcohol is sold. Some retailers aren’t careful who they sell alcohol to. They don’t “card” customers and sometimes a person under the legal age is able to get away with a purchase.

The sheriff’s department and health department coordinated a program with volunteers who have recently reached the age of 18, but look younger than their actual age. Deputies Kurt Kostuch and Brad Wyss worked with two 18-year-olds who acted as “decoys” at various businesses in the county. The volunteers were only allowed to keep a marked bill, their cellphone and a state-issued driver’s license on their person during the checks.

The decoys, under the supervision of the two deputies, would enter a store or station that sells alcohol for off-premise consumption and attempt to purchase some. If the decoy was asked to show identification they would present their state-issued driver’s license showing their current age of 18. If they were asked their age, they would state their age. After the decoy had attempted to make a purchase, the deputy made contact with the store or station clerk. If the purchase was denied, the deputy thanked the clerk for performing his/her job. If a sale was made, the clerk was cited under the laws of Wisconsin and the business was notified for information purposes.

The results in the most recent check showed five out of 44 businesses violated state law and sold alcohol to a minor. It was the lowest percentage since the checks began four years ago. In 2016, 46% of those checks violated the law. The percentage has dipped every year since, which means more business operators are paying attention and doing a better job of screening their young-looking customers.

Those in charge of the checks point out alcohol in the hands of minors can lead to various social problems. The intent of these checks is to take a more proactive approach to stop the sale of alcohol to minors.

We think the sheriff’s department and health department are taking the right approach in this type of program to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors. The tri-county area has seen too many bad things happen over the years when underage kids get their hands on alcohol.