By Joseph Cyr
HOULTON — During the month of February, Aroostook County Sheriff’s Deputies worked several details with persons under the legal age of 21 to purchase alcohol at local retailers.
Sheriff James P. Madore reported that 43 businesses from Macwahoc to Fort Kent that sell alcohol were checked for compliance. Of the businesses checked, 23 stores sold alcohol to a minor and were summonsed for the violation.
“With over a 50 percent non-compliance rate, the need for more education and more enforcement efforts through out the County,” Madore said.
The businesses were not identified by the Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Office was funded through Community Voices and Aroostook Substance Abuse Prevention to perform these details. Without out the additional financial support, we would not be able to perform these operations due to the time and coordination of resources that each detail takes.
In Maine, it is a violation for businesses to sell liquor to a minor and the violation for such a sale is Title 28A Section 7052. This is an administrative violation that can result in a fine, license suspension or both. Fines for stores start at $550 to $1,500 for the first violation.
“It’s an eye opener that more must be done to reduce teen access to alcohol in the retail setting,” said Michelle Plourde Chasse of Community Voices. “While we must support local law enforcement who since June of 2003 have bared the responsibility of enforcing Maine’s Liquor Law, it is equally important to support retailers with their role of ensuring lawful sales of alcohol. The complementary strategies of law enforcement checks and retailer education/training go hand in hand.”
Clare Desrosiers of the Aroostook Substance Abuse Program Coalition echoed those sentiments.
“Since the abolishment of State Liquor Enforcement in 2003, compliance checks have been conducted at a random sample of retail establishments in the County only once per year by a state contracted agency,” she said. “Such infrequent compliance checks are not effective. Research shows that compliance checks must be conducted at least every four months, and that when this is done, the checks lead to significant reductions in sales of alcohol to minors. There is clearly a need for such frequent checks.”
In 2010, the Sheriff’s Office and other local police departments (Ashland, Caribou, Houlton, and Presque Isle) began to fill the enforcement gap by conducting compliance checks on a regular basis in their local areas with funding received through ASAP Coalition and Community Voices. The Caribou and Presque Isle police departments are also now offering Responsible Beverage Service training to retailers.
ASAP Coalition applauds their work, which ultimately saves lives. Studies strongly demonstrate the connection between alcohol-related injuries among underage youth and access to alcohol at retail outlets.
By Joseph Cyr