Compliance Checks

The Marshalltown Police Department conducts compliance checks throughout the year to make sure stores which sell alcohol are not selling to underage youth. Compliance checks are not only to enforce the law, but also to educate employees who work at convenience stores, bars, restaurants and other businesses that sell alcohol.

Businesses which have alcohol licenses are informed about compliance checks and about the potential penalties for selling alcohol to underage youth.

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Generally, compliance checks are implemented by the following procedures:

  • Alcohol licensees are informed that compliance checks will occur at various times throughout the year and about potential penalties for selling alcohol to underage youth.
  • While an enforcement agent (police officer or other authorized person) waits outside the premises, a person under age 21 attempts to purchase or order an alcoholic beverage.

Why compliance checks are important for the community

  • In many communities, youth are able to purchase alcohol at commercial outlets. Several studies show that in communities where there is little or no enforcement, individuals who look younger than age 21 can buy alcohol without showing age identification in 45-50% of their attempted purchases. Compliance checks may be the most effective method for enforcing age-of-sale laws and decreasing the commercial availability of alcohol to youth.
  • Studies show that compliance checks are effective. Studies have found that after compliance checks were conducted, sales to underage patrons reduced from 60-80% to 25-30%. Other studies provide further evidence that compliance checks are effective. In Concord, New Hampshire, sales to youth decreased from 28% to 10% after quarterly compliance checks (coupled with increased penalties and a media campaign) at 539 off-premise alcohol establishments. In a large study in Minnesota, sales to youth were reduced immediately by 17% in alcohol establishments that experienced a check. In addition, a national survey showed that 66% of adults are in favor of compliance check policies.
  • Compliance checks encourage alcohol licensees to "police" themselves. Naturally, neither alcohol licensees nor their employees want to be caught selling alcohol to underage persons. Because compliance checks can be used to hold both accountable for illegal sales to youth, they encourage alcohol licensees to adequately train, supervise, and back up their employees.
  • Compliance checks can motivate citizen participation and support. Collaborating with police to conduct compliance checks is a productive and effective method for local citizens to become actively involved in underage alcohol use prevention efforts. Often, citizen participants, surprised by the ease with which youth can purchase alcohol, become motivated to reduce sales of alcohol to youth.

Questions about compliance checks? Contact the Marshalltown Police Department at 641-754-5725.