The operation, conducted on four separate days since January, used a decoy — someone underage working with police — to find out which stores would sell to minors.
"We hit basically every single vendor," said police spokesperson Liz Wylie. "We don't spot check, we hit all of them."
To conduct the checks, non-uniformed members of the Police Department's "Explorers" program attempted to buy tobacco or alcohol products under the supervision of regular officers. The Explorers were under age 18 if purchasing tobacco products, and under 21 if purchasing alcohol.
Police say that on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5, Explorers attempted to purchase tobacco products at 56 stores in Mountain View and authorities cited three for violations. On Feb. 24 and March 5, Explorers attempted to purchase alcohol at 60 stores in Mountain View and authorities cited 11 for violations.
Wylie said police have run a program for the past five years where volunteers visit every tobacco vendor in the city to check for state and municipal code compliance. She said the program is educational — the volunteers make sure stores have the proper signage, that their permits and licenses are posted and that tobacco products are locked or stowed behind a counter. She also said police are considering adding an alcohol component to the volunteer program.
Clerks who sell alcohol or tobacco to minors are cited with misdemeanors, according to District Attorney's Office spokesperson Amy Cornell. Improper sale of alcohol results in at least 24 hours community service and a $1,000 fine, she said. The maximum sentence is six months in jail.
As for selling tobacco, "For the first offense it is a $200 fine, for the second, a $500 fine, and for the third offense a $1,000 fine," she said.
"We forward these to the agencies that issue the permits and the licenses ... so they know that vendors at these stores sold illegally," Wylie said. "They can take additional action on their end if they so desire."
The Mountain View establishments cited for selling tobacco in the recent sting are Fast Mini Mart on Moffett Boulevard, Valero Gas Station on Moffett Boulevard and Giant Liquor on E. Middlefield Road.
The establishments cited for selling alcohol are Cigarette Express on W. El Camino Real, Brown & Gold Market on El Monte Avenue, Beverages & More on San Antonio Road, Central Liquors on N. Rengstorff Avenue, Bailey Plaza Liquors on Shoreline Boulevard, Liquor Tobacco & More on N. Rengstorff Avenue, Fast Mini Mart on Moffett Boulevard, Clydes Liquors on W. El Camino Real, Giant Liquor on E. Middlefield Road, Smart & Final on E. El Camino Real and Stop and Save on E. El Camino Real.