All across Durant, teenagers were in the bars, stores and restaurants trying to buy alcohol this week. But some of them were working for the police as “underage confidential informants.”
They were helping to train police officers from across the state as part of a multi-agency operation by the Oklahoma ABLE Commission and the 2M2L program. That’s a lot of numbers and letters representing people working hard to curtail underage drinking – and punishing those who provide liquor and beer to the under-21 crowd.
Durant Police Department is the host site for a two-day training this week, blending law enforcement, concerned youths and community volunteers in an effort to stop the flow of alcohol to teens. Wichita Mountains Prevention Network is the local point of contact for “2M2L” or “2 Much 2 Lose.”
This is an advocacy group which works directly with youths to expose the dangers of underage drinking and other social problems plaguing our youth. They are working with the ABLE Commission, which oversees alcohol, tobacco and gaming in the state, to provide training to officers from across the region.
“We want these types of investigations to reduce underage drinking, things like compliance checks and party dispersals,” said Erick Smoot, a senior agent at ABLE. “The problem is, not everyone gets the message. I’d much rather educate than take people to jail.”
Out of 17 retailers visited one day this week, 14 refused to sell alcohol to the “UCIs” while three establishments – two convenience stores and a west side restaurant – sold beverages to minors. Several others went through the motions of providing the alcohol before finally asking for identifications.
Smoot and another officer gave a serious lecture to the manager and bartender of a West Main Street restaurant where mixed drinks were provided to a pair of 17-year-olds who were not asked for identification. Warnings were issued to all three violators, but in this case felony charges could have resulted.
“I was amazed that a restaurant sold to us and not a store,” said one of the teens. Asked why she participated, she said she hopes to set an example for her peers to not ruin their lives.
Today, the coalition will hold a mock party in Durant to demonstrate how alcohol can be made available to minors in private settings. New laws are in place in many areas to punish hosts of parties where booze is provided to teens.
Nearly a dozen agencies are participating in the training, including Choctaw Nation Tribal Police, and officers from Durant, Calera, Kingston, Southeastern campus police, Carter County Sheriff’s Office, Ada and others.