MODESTO — For the past few years, law enforcement agencies around the county, along with agents from Alcoholic Beverage Control, have tested people's decision-making about furnishing alcohol to minors.
And while most pass the test, there always are people willing to get a six-pack of beer for the teenagers standing in front of the liquor store.
"Our goal is compliance, and a perfect night is zero arrests," Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll told officers and deputies during the briefing before the annual operation that is conducted statewide.
But the night was not perfect. In Modesto, between 5 and 9 p.m., 12 people were cited on suspicion of furnishing alcohol to a minor. The penalty for the charge is a minimum $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service, said John Carr, a spokesman for the ABC.
In many cases, the adults willing to buy alcohol for minors have been in trouble with the law before.
David McMaster, 44, hadn't been out of prison a week when he bought Budweiser for two 19-year-old decoys at Yosemite Liquors who told him they needed beer to go to a party.
He was arrested for violating his parole on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon and was cited for the alcohol purchase.
"It wasn't my fault," he said from the back seat of a patrol car. "They set me up."
A woman who recently turned of age herself told officers she was "just trying to be nice" and thought the decoys who gave her money simply didn't have IDs, so couldn't have bought alcohol for themselves.
She was cited and also found to have a felony warrant for burglary.
One positive finding of the operation was that many shopkeepers were shooing away the decoys, some as soon as they got there.
"That shows they are watching the property and making sure people aren't loitering," Carr said. "It is great when the store owners come out, because they are gatekeepers."
Several times, liquor store employees were alerted to the decoys by people the youth had tried to "shoulder tap."
The ABC funds the grants for "shoulder tap" operations primarily through fines it collects. The funding allows the department to pay officers overtime to focus on alcohol-related crimes and curb underage drinking.
Speaking of minors caught drinking, Carr said, "Because it is illegal, the minute they get cited, now they have a record, and you might have really nice young people who have a bright future and all of a sudden that can affect scholarships. The door might not open as easily as if they didn't get caught consuming alcohol.
"Nothing good comes from someone under the age of 21 who gets around this stuff."
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.