Decoy teens bust business owners

Yes, it is true that some business owners have been selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors. In order to stop these crimes, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has started using “decoys.”

The decoys are CVHS teenagers who work with Sheriff’s Department and go around to stores to see if cashiers will sell them tobacco products. These operations can take up to five hours and as many as 54 stores can be hit in one day.

The way this works is that a police officer gives a decoy $20 dollars, then the teen walks into a store and asks for a tobacco product, such as Camel Blue or Swisher Sweet. Then if the decoy gets a sale, the teen gives the officer the product and the officer gives the store owner a citation. The officers will send different decoys to the same store a few months later to see if the store continues to sell to minors.

One experienced decoy is known as “The Veteran,” who chooses to remain anonymous.  When asked about a memorable moment, he recalled this interesting episode: “Another decoy and I once went into a hookah lounge and we were not asked for IDs and we were not asked what our age was, and then 45 minutes later when they handed us a hookah, the officers walked in and gave the owners a citation,” she said.

Why do the decoys do what they do? “I wanted to do something different than the other types of community service; this way, you expose yourself for a cause. Some people may think I am a snitch, but I want to show kids why they should not smoke,” The Veteran said.

“We need youths to be recruited and help join our cause,” said Traci Cross, the decoy program coordinator.

Hopefully these operations reduce underage tobacco sales. If people are interested in helping out, it’s free and anyone can join. If you are interested in joining, please email Cross at

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