Matt Beckett’s two sons are 9 and 6 years old.
But they are already getting an education on the dangers of underage drinking and the effects of alcohol on a person and a community.
Beckett, Moffat County Grand Futures Prevention Coalition director, is set on creating a dialogue to address the issue of underage drinking in Craig and change the perception that alcohol is easily available to minors, like surveys indicate most youths think.
Alcohol compliance checks were recently conducted as a collaboration of the Moffat and Routt counties Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, and the Craig and Steamboat Springs police departments.
A group of 18- to 20-year-olds were hired by the program and sent to try to buy alcohol at various liquor and convenience stores.
All of the 13 businesses screened in Craig passed with flying colors, Beckett said, meaning store employees checked the minors’ identification.
That score is a significant improvement over the most recent check that took place in 2008, when only 50 percent passed.
“Any time something goes from 50 percent failure to 100 percent, it’s a big step in the right direction,” Beckett said. “A lot of it might be the sellers don’t want the criminal punishment that goes along with selling to minors. A lot of times, it’s an automatic fine.”
If a store fails, the clerk who made the sale is subject to fines and community service and the store is slapped with a liquor license revocation or suspension.
For Beckett, this year’s outcome is a result of a changing perception on underage drinking.
“By limiting those opportunities, if we’re more vigilant in our efforts as adults in making sure our kids don’t have access to alcohol, it does have a broad impact on the community perception of alcohol use,” Beckett said.
But, he knows it’s not as simple as an entire community agreeing not to make alcohol available to minors.
Grand Futures provides communitywide education as well as professional development and training for store clerks on properly checking IDs.
Beckett also said emerging medical data might have an impact on the casual perception of underage drinking.
“With some of the neuroscience information coming out, people are starting to see some of the negative impacts health wise,” Beckett said. “If you get that perception in the town that it doesn’t have any effect, then it becomes accepted behavior. But, you can’t argue with brain scans. People are realizing this is doing some damage to our kids.”
Still, he said, it’s adults in the community who hold the key to preventing the damage done by underage drinking.
“We know how to stop it,” he said. “You don’t buy it for them. It’s an easy fix.
“If a community decided it doesn’t want to have underage drinking and no one bought it for them, it doesn’t grow on trees. It’s up to us as adults.”