Shops learn underage drink lesson

TRADERS in Felixstowe today appear to be learning their lesson after an undercover police operation to track down which ones are selling booze to kids.

TRADERS in Felixstowe today appear to be learning their lesson after an undercover police operation to track down which ones are selling booze to kids.

Two months ago, officers found four out of five stores tested sold alcohol to a 14-year-old girl with no questions asked.

This time they carried out test purchases using a young boy at seven supermarkets and off licences and only one failed to meet the mark – the other six all insisting on ID and refusing to sell the drink.

Licensing officer PC Richard Durrant said: "Last time I was very disappointed – we highlighted some very big concerns and problems.

"This time – thanks to the work we have been doing and the publicity the last operation was given by the Evening Star – I think lessons have been learned and we have seen a big improvement, much, much better.

"All the shops need to do is ask to see identification – such as the official Prove It card. Youngsters can get these easily enough.

Most Read

"Before, too many of the places we visited were just prepared to hand over the drink, even though the person we sent in to buy it looked under age.

"This is an ongoing operation and we will be continuing to work with the shops and off licences to stop this problem."

The operation was set up because alcohol consumption by teenagers was a growing problem in the summer, leading to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Police sent a young man known for the purposes of the operation as John, monitored by a plain clothes officer acting as a shopper in the store, into seven supermarkets and off licences – not the same ones as in the last operation – while other officers waited outside.

In the first he managed to buy four cans of lager unchallenged. Police are considering what action to take against the shop, which cannot be named.

In the previous operation, owners of the four which sold drink were given cautions.

John then visited Tesco, Iceland, Solar, and Unwins in Hamilton Road, the Walton High Street Co-op, and the Galleon in Undercliff Road West, where each time he was asked for ID or simply refused because he looked too young.

David Ray, 25, trainee manager at Solar, said: "We have full training for staff on this issue and they are told if you are not 100 per cent sure that someone is 18 you do not sell alcohol to them.

"The article in the Evening Star after the last police operation reinforced that and all the staff have been asking youngsters for ID."

At the Walton Co-op, John was refused by check-out girl Katherine Abbott, who asked for ID.

Supervisor Ann Kidd said: "He looked really young and Katherine did the right thing. We have at least someone – boys and girls – coming in every night trying to buy alcohol and we have to be on our guard."

PC Durrant said the operations would continue and the consideration was being given to a similar sting in pubs.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter