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Paris PD sends undercover officers out for tobacco sting operation

The Paris Police Department recently completed a sting operation to combat the sale of tobacco products to minors, finding a 33% illegal sale rate in Paris against a 10% average for the rest of the state, according to Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley.

underage_tobacco_01The investigation began on June 30 and was headed up by officers, David Whitaker and Curtis Graham, in the department’s Community Oriented Policing Unit.

“The operation was in conjunction with the Tobacco Enforcement Program provided by a grant through the Texas State University,” the chief said.

According to Hundley, during the operation, underage individuals — accompanied by plain clothes officers — went to businesses and attempted to buy tobacco products with Texas driver’s licenses which clearly established that the buyer was under age for that type of purchase.

Each time the underage person attempted a buy, the undercover or plain clothes police officer witnessed the transaction and provided security for the buyer.

“Officers went with the buyers as they attempted to purchase tobacco products at 51 locations in Paris,” Hundley said. “If an illegal sale took place, the clerk completing the sale was issued a class ‘C’ misdemeanor citation.”

A local store clerk told eParisExtra that she received a citation after making an illegal sale to a 15-year old girl. She didn’t check ID, and after making the sale, the girl took the cigarettes and money to a man outside (who was an undercover police officer). He then went and talked to the store clerk and explained to her that she was being cited for illegal sale of tobacco to a minor.

“After an illegal buy or a sale that was refused, officers made contact with the management of the business and explained what had happened, reinforced what the law was and let them know that the officers would be back to see if illegal sales continued,” he continued.

Officers issued 17 citations for illegal sales from the 51 locations visited. There were additional attempts at the stores which made an illegal transaction. One location received a second citation as the same buyer with the same ID dealing with the same clerk allowed a second illegal purchase to take place.

“Tobacco products are harmful to anyone’s health,” Hundley siad. “These products are especially detrimental to the health of a younger person. A youngster may not be sufficiently mature to weigh the risks of consuming these products to their long and short term health.”

It is a violation of the Health and Safety Code, Chapter 161.082 to sell tobacco products to persons under the age of 18. According to the police chief, the operation will be repeated and it is hoped the percentage of illegal sales will be reduced.

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