Undercover kids Sting operation catches illegal sales of cigarettes, spray paint

Prompted by an outbreak of graffiti throughout the city and the need to curb the sale of spray paint and cigarettes to teens, the Bayonne Police Department, using teens that belong to the local Police Explorer Post, conducted a series of sting operations on Aug. 7 that resulted in tickets being issued to 11 retailers for the illegal sale of cigarettes to minors and two retailers for the sale of spray paint to minors.

Fines under a local ordinance start at $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for the third and continued violations. The municipality can also seek to revoke a retailer’s license.

For the sale of spray paint and other items used for graffiti, retailers can face from $100 to $500 in fines.

According to Police Chief Robert Kubert, police officers Pat Lynch, Mike Elia and Mike Zajac, in conjunction with the Explorers, attempted to purchase cigarettes and spray paint during an hour and half period on Aug. 7.

Although extremely grateful for the help of the teens, Kubert said he wished to keep the identity of the teens secret.

“We don’t want to release [the names] so we can use them again,” Kubert said.

Stings of this sort generally use mature-looking teens to test whether or not retailers will ask for identification when it comes to the purchase of cigarettes.

The federal law said retailers must check photo identification from anyone that seems age 27 or under.

“Between 6 and 7:30 p.m. last night [Aug. 7], they went out in response to complaints we received about some stores selling cigarettes to minors,” Kubert said. “Also, during a few of our graffiti investigations, it was deemed that juveniles were able to buy spray paint in at least two stores. In all, about 40 stores were visited by three teams consisting of an officer and a couple of Explorers for cigarette sale violations, and six stores for spray paint sales.”

Kubert said the explorers went into the stores to make the purchases while being observed from the outside by the officers.

“Once the sale was consummated, the officers entered the store to issue the appropriate summons,” the police chief said. “During similar operations in the past, it was learned many of the stores had owners and/or employees in common. They would phone each other to warn them of our possible visit. The stores would then discontinue sales until a latter date. At locations where the officers and Explorers suspected this tactic was probable, the teams hit the stores simultaneously. This proved successful with three of the stores visited during this operation.”

Stores cited

According to Kubert, the following locations were cited for cigarette sales to a minor: DeLuca’s Deli, 1086 Ave. C; Walgreens, 691 Broadway; Alladen Deli, 409 Kennedy Blvd.; A & S Grocery, 599 Kennedy Blvd.; Bayonne Deli & Things, 546 Kennedy Blvd.; Edwards Court Deli, 329 Ave. A.; Edwards Inc. Deli, 410 Kennedy Blvd.; Yellow Rose Deli, 375 Kennedy Blvd.; News & Things, 110 Kennedy Blvd.; and Economical Laundromat, 210 Broadway.

Kubert said two stores were charged with selling spray paint sales to minors: Ace Hardware, 1030 Broadway, and Family Dollar Store, 1347 Kennedy Blvd. in Family Dollar Plaza.

Police Director Mark Smith joined Kubert in commending the officers and Explorer Post members for “their tenacity in continuing to ensure the health of our youth, and that the aesthetic values of our properties are protected.”

“While some of the stores selling cigarettes to minors are repeat offenders, this is the first time, after several attempts, we were able to apprehend store owners for the sale of spray paint,” Smith said.

“This is but one more step in the Police Department’s efforts to end the recent rash of graffiti incidents, which have recently plagued our community,” said Kubert.

Teen smoking is still a problem despite more than a decade of anti-smoking campaigns. According to Communities Against Tobacco (CAT), statistics show that about 30 percent of kids in middle school use cigarettes, with a significant jump to 60 percent by high school. As much as 80 percent of high school students say they have tried cigarettes at least once.

Bayonne residents in general have a higher average for smoking, according to the not-for-profit research group, Drug-Rehab.org, which said 25 percent of its 62,000 residents smoke. The average is about 21 percent of people who live in communities with similar demographics.

Recent arrests of teens show that the use of spray paint for graffiti is also a problem, with more than 53 local teens charged in related crimes during 2008

email to Al Sullivan

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