Paris Police complete tobacco sting operation

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PARIS, TX-- After a month long investigation, the Paris Police Department completed a sting operation to combat the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Officers David Whitaker and Curtis Graham with the Community Oriented Policing unit headed up the operation that started on June 30th. The operation was in conjunction with the Tobacco Enforcement Program provided by a grant from Texas State University.

During the operation Officer Graham went undercover as volunteers, between the ages of 14 and 16, went into businesses and tried to buy tobacco products.

"Once we determined it was safe the juvenile would come in, go straight to the counter and attempt to purchase tobacco products," said Officer Curtis Graham.

Graham says, "If they sold to the juvenile, the juvenile would exit the store, with the tobacco products, and meet with Officer Whitaker outside."

If an illegal sale took place, the clerk was issued a citation. Of their 51 attempts, 17 citations were issued. One clerk, at T-24 in the 200 block of North Main Street, received two.

"Some of the problems we were running into was the clerk would ask for the ID and look at the ID, but they would still sell to the juvenile after looking at their ID," said Officer Graham.

On average, 10% of stores statewide sell tobacco products to minors.
Paris' operation showed there is a 33% illegal sale rate in the city.

"We went by specific guidelines so that way it didn't look like we were trying to trick these stores into selling to kids when they were younger than what they were," said Graham.

"I think it's good that the police are checking," said resident Grant Ballard. "You don't want to get kids in trouble, but at the same time you want your stores to abide by the law."

The police department plans to apply for the grant again next month, and hope the next time around they see fewer illegal sales.

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