Beaverton police will enforce cigarette laws

Local businesses can expect undercover stings to make sure minors are not sold tobacco products

Beaverton police plan to step up where state officals have dropped off in keeping tobacco out of the hands of young people.

Upon learning that the addictions and mental health division of the Oregon Health Authority had not been enforcing tobacco laws for the past two years, police officials said Tuesday that they would look at ways to fill the gap in enforcement.

'We deferred enforcement of tobacco laws to the state,' said Lt. Paul Wandell, who leads the Beaverton Police Department's Community Services Division.

That will no longer be the case in Beaverton.

'The issue for us is that we don't want this becoming a community policing problem,' Wandall said. 'One sale of tobacco to a minor could lead to the sale of alcohol or cause other criminal activity to occur in our neighborhoods.

'Enforcing tobacco laws is of the same priority as addressing other criminal issues like chronic vandalism - they all have negative impacts on the livability of a neighborhood and the community as a whole.'

Tobacco laws are in place to protect children and teens, he added.

Beaverton police will do their part to ensure retailers do not sale tobacco products to minors, Wandell said. Officers will issue citations to those who commit the crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $720.

Minors in possession of tobacco will also face sanctions through the agency's Peer Court.

The court hasn't dealt with a tobacco-related case in several years, said Sue Hayes, Beaverton Police Department's volunteer coordinator who oversees the program.

However, sanctions would be the same as any other offenses that go before the Peer Court.

Young defendents in most Peer Court cases are sanctioned to write a 1,000-word essay reflecting on their crime, serve on a future jury and attend a mandatory workshop, Hayes said.

Juries can also require offenders to perform community service, write an apology and pay up to $50 in restitution to a victim for damages, she added.

Moving forward, Beaverton officials will look at partnering with neighboring agencies to conduct tobacco enforcement stings similar to those they perform with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to ensure businesses are not furnishing alcohol to those 20 and younger.

'We understand the limitations of the state,' Wandell said. 'We're willing to work together with them and other neighboring agencies to tackle this issue.'