Police officers issued a total of 17 citations last weekend in yet another underage-drinking enforcement operation.
Belen Police Detective Joe Griego said the local underage-drinking task force is actively trying to curb the problem by going out to ensure minors aren’t getting their hands on alcohol.
“We gave quite a few citations that night,” Griego said. “It was a good night for us and, hopefully, we can send a message that we’ll be out there in force.”
The underage-drinking task force focused its efforts in Los Lunas last Friday night. Griego was joined by Linda Rodriguez, the local DWI coordinator, five Los Lunas police officers and an agent from the State Special Investigation’s division for the operation.
During the operation, police gave 11 citations to people for having open containers of alcohol, two for no insurance, one for no driver’s license and one for an expired registration. One citation was given to a minor in possession of alcohol and a 25-year-old Los Lunas man was cited for giving alcohol to a minor.
As the six officers walked into a local bar, Rodriguez returned to the car to retrieve her identification. While outside, Rodriguez called Griego on her cellular telephone informing him she smelled a suspicious odor coming from a vehicle.
“I approached the driver of the vehicle, and I identified myself and told him what I was doing,” Griego said. “When I asked him for his driver’s license, I could smell a very strong odor of marijuana coming from his person and from inside the car.”
Griego said he found a bag of marijuana on the driver, an 18-year-old man of Los Lunas, during a pat-down search. The detective also said he found a small scale in the man’s front shirt pocket.
Griego said the passenger in the vehicle, another 18-year-old Los Lunas man, was also reportedly found with a bag of marijuana.
The driver was arrested and charged with distribution of a controlled substance and the passenger was charged with possession of marijuana.
Rodriguez said, when they are out doing underage alcohol operations, they can see the public’s reaction to not being served or sold alcohol.”
“It comes down to our community’s acceptance of the youth and alcohol,” she said. “We need to continue to educate our community and business owners about the problem.”
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.