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Wasco secures grant to combat underage alcohol sales

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the City of Wasco accepted a $50,000 state grant to fight the illegal sale and marketing of alcohol to minors.

City Manager Scott Hurlbert said, "It's just a piece of the entire policing effort in Wasco. This portion helps fund targeted efforts related to improper sale of alcoholic beverages."

Police Chief Charles Fivecoat also reported that in the department's first seven weeks, over 2,300 incidents have been reported and handled.

The alcohol enforcement funding, from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Alcohol Policing Partnership Grant Program, will be for 12 months, starting on July 1, 2024, and ending on June 30, 2025. The Wasco Police Department will use the grant funds to do the following including, but not limited to:

–Identifying and target problematic ABC-licensed establishments.

–Conducting retailer compliance and licensing checks.

–Carrying out minor decoy operations to prevent illegal alcohol sales to minors.

–Conducting "shoulder tap" operations to prevent illegal alcohol sales to minors.

–Organizing retailer and public education outreach.

In the 2021 Office of Traffic Safety Crash Ranking, Wasco reported 48 fatal and injury crashes, ranking it 17th among 93 similar localities. Notably, alcohol was a factor in seven of these incidents. Moreover, the Kern County Sheriff's Office recorded 17 DUI arrests in 2022.

The presence of 14 on-sale and 28 off-sale retail alcohol licenses in Wasco heightens the challenge of managing unlawful alcohol consumption, particularly among individuals under 21, and the number of crashes involving alcohol.

Chief of Police Charles Fivecoat said in a staff report, "We will identify and target problematic ABC establishments. Then, we will conduct minor decoy andsShoulder tap operations to reduce alcohol-related incidents. We will also coordinate and host LEAD [Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs] and TRACE [Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies)] training.

"The grant will enable us to: 1) Reduce traffic fatalities and injuries related to alcohol, 2) Lower instances of illegal alcohol sales to minors and 3) Increase public awareness about the dangers of DUI and underage drinking."

"Our initiative, supported by the ABC grant, will significantly contribute to making Wasco a safer community by addressing critical traffic safety and underage alcohol consumption issues. We are committed to fostering a responsible environment for all Wasco residents and visitors."

Assistant City Manager Maria Lara, who spearheaded the winning grant application, remarked, "I'm just excited that we are getting additional resources for the local Police Department to combat the sale of alcohol to minors and hopefully prevent accidents from happening. We will be working with ABC in partnership to implement this grant, which is an exciting collaboration."

Chief Fivecoat commented on Lara, "Maria is one of the best assets we have in this city. She understands the grant process and has been very successful in helping to fund many projects in the city."

Also, at the meeting, Chief Fivecoat gave an update on the Police Department, which had been in service for 46 days since launching on April 18. "Since operational, we've had 2,339 incidents, 1,250 dispatched from 911; 1,089 have been dispatch initiated. That means our guys are on the street."

"What we are seeing in the stats is that we are having stolen vehicles and a lot of no-license and suspended licenses. The last two are contributing to some of our problems with hit-and-run accidents. Of the 23 vehicles stolen, we recovered 11 of them, most of them occupied."

"I am very happy with what the officers are doing."


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