The Texas Impaired Driving Task Force works with TxDOT subgrantees and other local and statewide organizations to promote policies and best practices to prevent drinking and driving, drinking by underage individuals, and any alcohol service to minors at the statewide and community level. Additionally, the group focuses on policies and best practices that prevent over-service to those individuals aged 21 and over. Education is promoted and provided by Task Force members, TxDOT, and other organizations to ensure voluntary compliance with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code and promote responsible alcohol service.
One organization which works to promote responsible alcohol service is the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC). TABC regulates third party, seller-server schools available throughout Texas and online. The program covers Texas’ underage and over-service laws, and prevention strategies. TABC-approved seller sever schools train about 350,000 people each year. The certification is valid for two years. Currently, Texas law does not require seller/servers to be certified, but administrative sanctions are offered to licensed locations that require the certification and meet other minimum standards.
Each time employees stop service to a minor or intoxicated person, they are protecting themselves, the business, and the community from serious consequences.
The Retailer Education and Awareness Program (REAP) was designed by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) staff to provide education for all staffing levels of alcoholic beverage retailers. This program provides owners, managers, and general employees of retail establishments an opportunity to REAP the benefits of continued education and compliance with the state’s alcoholic beverage laws. Hosted by TABC, the two-hour program addresses common issues related to minors and intoxicated patrons. The course covers both on- and off-premise scenarios in one training environment and is easily customizable to individual training needs.
The program is designed to create a dialogue between TABC and all levels of alcoholic beverage retail staff while in an educational environment. TABC agents and auditors will cover topics to refresh even the most seasoned employees while also asking for feedback and opening the class up for questions, so those involved leave with a better understanding of possible problem areas and solutions. The goal of the REAP educational program is to help all alcoholic beverage retailers promote responsible alcoholic beverage sales and service.
TABC has developed a risk-based program to focus on at-risk behavior that may indicate a pattern of bad business practices that could lead to serious violations. This process includes looking for pre-determined factors in the application, examining administrative violation history, and gathering intelligence from other law enforcement and governmental agencies.
The key elements of the risk-based enforcement program are: increased inspection frequency for retailers with past histories of public safety violations, a greater emphasis on “after hours” establishments that illegally sell or permit consumption of alcoholic beverages during prohibited hours, and prioritization of its complaint investigations to give investigations involving allegations of public safety offenses first priority in terms of time and resources.
TABC identifies retailers whose premises have been the scene of an offense with public safety implications, or that have been the subject of multiple complaints alleging such violations. Once identified, these retailers are assigned to one of five priority levels, which determine the frequency of TABC inspections. Priority levels are assigned based on the severity and number of past violations or complaints, and on the length of time since the most recent violation or complaint. At the highest level, locations are inspected bi-weekly. As time passes, so long as no new violations are observed, a business will progress downward through the priority tiers. Inspections become less frequent with each downward step among the tiers. At the end of the 12-month period, retailers are subject only to an annual inspection.
Public safety violations have been given priority status due to their correlation with patrons’ level of intoxication when they are leaving licensed premises. These public safety violations are alcohol age-law offenses, intoxication offenses, prohibited hours offenses, drug-related offenses, disturbances of the peace, and human trafficking. Vice offenses such as prostitution are also considered when assigning priority status. Violations indicative of retailer financial stress are also reviewed because such offenses have been found to occur concurrently with or as a precursor to actual public safety offenses.
As part of this program, TABC also provides free training opportunities to retail managers and employees in an attempt to prevent future violations. Field offices are required to offer these opportunities to all retailers qualifying for the two highest tiers but routinely make them available to all other retailers as well. As result of its training initiatives, some 20,000 retail managers and employees were trained on illegal sales recognition and prevention “best practices” techniques.
During FY 2016, 5,883 retailers qualified for priority status. TABC enforcement agents conducted over 25,279 inspections of these priority status retailers as the year progressed. These inspections produced 297 criminal cases and 548 administrative cases, mostly involving additional public safety offenses. Due to this model of compliance, the percent of inspections of priority locations resulting in the discovery of public safety violations has steadily declined, falling from 12.8% in FY 2006 to 6.1% by the end of FY 2016.