|Updated: 2/19 10:06 am
||Published: 2/18 7:51 pm
Often major crimes such as robberies, burglaries and domestic violence have a common thread- alcohol.
Agents with the Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission and Tulsa police are targeting bars, restaurants and liquor stores in high crime areas.
"If we can reduce those calls than we can do more proactive policing,” said ABLE Agent Erik Smoot.
Following City Councilor Blake Ewing’s allegations that his restaurant in the Blue Dome District was targeted by officers last month, the Tulsa Police Chief released a statement on Monday to say that was not the case.
Since October, more than 200 places that serve liquor citywide have been checked.
The first compliance check at Brookview Wine & Spirits yielded a $200 fine for selling individual cigarettes.
"We talked about this well in advance and they were not going to do it. They promised us they weren't going to do it and they were not going to do it and they were doing it," said Smoot.
Officers say being proactive inside can prevent crime on the street.
Agents and police check other convenience stores and did not find any violations.
However, pipes and sponges sold behind the counter are being sold. Clerks say it’s not for illegal use but police believe the pipes are used to smoke crack and the kitchen sponges are filters for drugs customers smoke.
“We just want to make them aware. We do know what it is being used for and that we are paying attention and we do want to know what is going on in their stores,” said Smoot. “We do want crime to reduce and we don’t want this kind of stuff being sold to people.”
The compliance checks moved over to 48th and Harvard, where officers say last year they were called to Harvard Sports Bar 56 times for shootings, stabbings, fights and other disturbances.
"We really try to focus our efforts on places that we know have had problems before,” said Smoot.
Harvard Bar was written a $1,000 fine for a sign violation.
"They have to have a sign on the door that says you have to be 21 to enter,” says Smoot.
During the compliance checks word spread fast. When police left Harvard Sports Bar to head to Crawpappies, the bartenders there already knew ABLE was out that night because they said a customer at Harvard Sports bar called to give them the heads up.
“They know we are coming in and out. That will make a difference,” said Smoot.
The majority of the 14 tickets issued were for bartenders without a liquor license.
"She can't work tonight without a license," says Smoot.
"The people that are not licensed properly, they're just trying to make a dollar and they let in anybody and everybody and they don't really care that's what leads to fights and the crimes that happen,” says Recess bartender Patrick Oliver.
Police are also checking for underage drinking and if anyone has been over served and making sure bartenders are not felons.
ABLE received an anonymous tip that Cronies near 71st and Memorial was buying liquor from a liquor store rather than a wholesaler. That’s considered tax evasion.
ABLE wrote Cronies fines worth at least $8,000 for purchasing liquor to sell in the bar. Agents say the owner had to go home to get the receipts and brought them to the bar to show agents.
The compliance checks are to control alcohol in the licensed liquor establishments. Officers say the direct result is less trouble out on the street.
"If we can reduce how much people can drink, if we reduce how much they are over selling people, if we stop the vagrants in the parking lots trying to buy dope," says Smoot.
Meaning, alcohol enforcement can play a key role in reducing the number of drug deals, fights, stabbings and shootings reported in Tulsa.
"All of that stuff will make a difference in the end to change the way crime happens,” said Smoot.
It’s important to note that the compliance checks are happening all over Tulsa.
"We don't want to move the crime to another area, we want to eliminate it,” said Smoot.
On Saturday night, 17 places in the TPD Riverside Division were checked: Brookview Wine and Spirits, R & R Convenience Store, Quik Stop at 61st & Peoria, Harvard Sports Bar, Elephant Run, Crawpappies, Cronies, Sutures, Kansas City Smokehouse BBQ, Recess, Blue Turtle, Calibus, Lennie’s, 3340, Danny Bob’s and the Buccaneer.
Compliance checks will continue and happen anywhere between two to three times per month all over the city.
TPD says overtime is not being used during the checks. Two TPD Officers and two ABLE Agents are assigned to the Task Force.
Smoot says when Las Vegas had a similar task force officers were able to reduce calls for major crimes by 29% over a six month period.