Police representatives said Monday they were pleased that no store sold alcohol to underage customers during the month's second round of compliance checks Saturday.
But Capt. Tom Porter questioned whether the success rate was achieved honestly. He said the agents running the checks observed some "highly coincidental phone calls" during the operation.
"It may or may not be that businesses are warning each other that we are out," Porter said. "Hopefully, that is not the case."
Porter addressed the Juneau Assembly's Human Resources Committee with Police Chief Richard Gummow before Monday's Assembly meeting. He explained that underage customers working with police failed to buy alcohol from all seven local stores checked Saturday night.
On July 13, nine businesses were checked for compliance, and only one clerk was cited, Porter said. A possible case against a second clerk has been turned over to prosecutors for consideration, he added.
He said the underage customers working with the department go into businesses and present actual identification in an attempt to buy alcohol. "We don't use fake IDs," Porter said.
Police, who are outside the business, cite clerks who make sales. If clerks take the identification, the police ask for it back. The only two citations police issued during Saturday's operation were on charges of interfering with police. The staff at one store wouldn't give an identification card back, Porter said.
Assemblyman Marc Wheeler asked why a business would hold back an ID.
Porter answered that the case is open, and he didn't want to speculate.
If a clerk sells to an underage customer, the clerk is cited and not the store, Porter said.
Porter said stores that sell over the counter were identified as the best places to begin checks, because there was a greater likelihood of underage alcohol sales.
He said the department would like to extend compliance checks to lounges and other establishments with liquor licenses. It also would like to extend the pool of potential underage buyers.
Gummow said the department had a problem finding sufficient numbers of youth to work with the police.
"We didn't ask for funding from the state," he told the committee, reminding the city officials that the compliance checks are "basically on our dime."
Cindy Cashen, director of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the committee that her group is very concerned with underage drinking.
"I'd like to thank the Juneau Police Department for being aggressive," she said.
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.