Kudos to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Investigative Services' efforts under Capt. Todd Shear to save lives and "move the needle" on Manatee County's rates for underage and youth binge drinking! And a huge shout out to the vast majority of retail alcohol vendors who train their staff to ask for ID and refuse to serve underage patrons.
A recent compliance enforcement operation by MCSO on Feb. 27, sponsored by the Drug Free Manatee coalition, challenged 63 retail establishments across the county, using trained underage "operatives" supported by teams of deputies, to determine compliance with alcohol sale statutes.
Results? A total of 15 failure to comply citations issued -- a 76 percent compliance rate. While not awful, there is clearly room for improvement. Drug Free Manatee offers free responsible beverage service training (PREP) to vendors/staff to support their efforts to comply with alcohol statutes and avoid liability.
DFM notes that alcohol is the most commonly used drug among Manatee County students (Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, 2014). With the approach of spring break, prom and graduation, with accompanying sports and social activities by students, the coalition strongly supports local law enforcement compliance operations that test whether or not local businesses are selling alcohol to minors.
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Because of continued efforts by all law enforcement agencies, and Drug Free Manatee's ongoing media strategies ("Parents Who Host") and retail server training, compliance has improved significantly since 2009 when there was an almost 50 percent average "failure to comply" rate for area restaurants, bars, convenience stores and other establishments licensed to sell alcohol.
DFM and its community partners continue efforts to reduce both the commercial and social sources of alcohol for underage youth in our community. For more information on this issue, and other youth and adult substance use issues, go to www.drugfreemanatee.org.