Parish targets teen drinking

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 10, 2010



LAPLACE – With the help of state grants, authorities with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office recently conducted an undercover operation targeting illegal sales of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 as part of a growing initiative to combat underage drinking.

Under the direction and supervision of deputies, underage cooperatives entered stores in the St. John area in an attempt to purchase alcohol without being asked to provide identification.

The operation was part of an $800,000 grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission that is put toward combating teen drinking.

“The grant is used for an assortment of traffic enforcement operations we do throughout the year,” said St. John Sheriff’s Office Capt. Troy Cassioppi, who is commander of the traffic division.

This past Saturday between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., deputies and cooperatives went to 15 stores in the area to try to purchase alcohol. Cassioppi said the underage cooperative was able to purchase alcohol at 10 of those locations, even without any identification.

“Our cooperatives weren’t even carrying ID on them when they entered the store,” said Cassioppi. “This means that some of these clerks were not even asking for it.”

Deputies cited the sellers for the unlawful sale of alcohol to underage people, and they were reported to the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. Cassioppi said from there, the clerks attend a hearing and are usually issued a civil fine and asked to participate in a class on how to handle such sales.

Cassioppi said underage drinking is not a huge problem in the parish but added that it is something that is heavily monitored. In addition to last week’s operation, Cassioppi said deputies also performed an operation over the summer at area bars to check for underage alcohol consumption and cited patrons for underage drinking. He also said another undercover operation similar to what happened last weekend is in the works.

“These operations are manpower intensive and take a lot of hours to complete,” Cassioppi said. “We try to schedule them throughout the year around Mardi Gras, prom nights and homecoming. The numbers are dropping, but they can always be better.”

St. John Sheriff Wayne L. Jones said the St. John Sheriff’s Office maintains a strong stand against the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 21 and said he looks forward to seeing these operations continue in the parish.

The stores that were found to be in violation are: Shell Gas at 4309 US Highway 51, LaPlace; Pilot Travel Center, 4301 US Highway 51, LaPlace; Shell Gas at 1173 Airline Highway, LaPlace; Birdies Food and Fuel, 901 E. Airline Highway, LaPlace; Birdies Food and Fuel, 483 Belle Terre Blvd., LaPLace; Daiquiri & Company, 640 W. Airline Highway, LaPlace; Shell Gas at Airline Highway and Magnolia Drive; Big River Food and Fuel, 482 Belle Terre Blvd., LaPLace; Valero Gas Station on River Road at Central Avenue, Reserve; and Fast Stop Discount Mart, 2972 River Road, Garyville.