A Success Story of the Roseau County Prevention Coalition
by Tammie Doebler
The Roseau County Prevention Coalition (RCPC) has come so far in our work in making sure anyone under 21 will not get served alcohol in a Roseau County establishment. This includes working with the County Attorney in defining the statutes, training law enforcement on conducting compliance checks, training youth to conduct the checks, assisting establishments in knowing what to do if someone underage were to attempt to purchase alcohol in their establishment and to our city and county governments, who implemented ordinances that had severe penalties for those establishments who choose to sell alcohol to someone under 21.
When the RCPC grant began, we discovered that compliance checks had not been done in at least 10 years (if any were ever done). At that point, we met with law enforcement who were very willing to conduct the checks and recruit the youth to conduct the checks. At the same time, the Coalition coordinator was working with the Roseau Liquor Store Manager, to bring a beverage server training to our area. At that time, no county or city government had any kind of ordinance in place regarding establishments that sell to minors. After meeting with the county attorney and law enforcement, we set dates to conduct the first round of compliance checks. It was done on 12/3/2006. And there was a huge failure rate. 31 checked and only 5 PASSED county wide. Through an agreement of law enforcement and the county attorney: instead of tickets/fines for that round, the businesses and employees were given an opportunity to attend a responsible beverage server training put on by the RCPC. 63 people attended from 21 businesses. We have made this an annual event, where invitations are sent each year to establishments who have a liquor license. We have conducted several compliance checks since then (and per law enforcement requests we have added a tobacco compliance check) and we have seen a huge decrease in failure rates. The last round conducted on 5/12/08 91% of county businesses passed the compliance checks. We are also now being contacted by establishments who wish to have more of their staff trained.
Challenges we faced were that compliance checks were new to officers. They needed to meet with County attorney and then needed to be trained on how to properly conduct them. We started from scratch. Businesses that failed blamed law enforcement and the coalition; many calling it a set-up or “sting”.
What worked was having the county attorney on board, meeting with law enforcement on what is needed for protocol, and working with the coalition on getting them done and continuing to get them done. It worked very well to have the officers hire and train the youth who do the compliance checks. It worked very well to conduct them county-wide all on the same evening at the same time to avoid businesses calling each other with a warning. What didn’t work was that some of the law enforcement agencies issued tickets, others issued warnings. The exact outcome wasn’t discussed prior to the checks and there was no ordinance in place at that time. There were also some officers who reported back to the pass/fails that evening, and others had never contacted the businesses.
We would change (and some changes are already in place) the handling of the checks after they were completed. We’d like to see the businesses notified of their pass the same evening. We had businesses who didn’t know they passed until they saw the articles in the paper. At the last round of checks, the county attorney met with law enforcement and wrote a “template” letter for the businesses that pass. We hope to keep using that after each compliance check.