Evanston Police ramp up surveillance at Evanston 1st Liquors

Marshall Cohen

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In recent weeks, the Evanston Police Department has ramped up surveillance at Evanston 1st Liquors, 1019 Davis St., in an attempt to root out underage purchasing of alcohol.

“There will be random checks at various times to monitor to see if underage people are in there and attempting to purchase alcohol,” said EPD spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott.

EPD officers are currently checking the downtown liquor store once or twice per week, but there is not a mandated number of weekly sweeps, Parrott said. In the past, officers would stop by once every few weeks.

Even though the increased police monitoring only began a couple of weeks ago, EPD has already made several arrests in and around the downtown liquor store.

A McCormick freshman was arrested Friday and charged with illegal possession of liquor and misrepresentation of age after officers encountered him outside EV1 carrying a 12-pack of light beer, a bottle of tequila and a bottle of vodka. The freshman also presented officers an ID that police determined was forged, Parrott said.

Two Weinberg sophomores were arrested outside EV1 Jan. 26 and charged with underage possession of liquor. Officers observed the two female students handling a bag containing two bottles of vodka, Parrott said.

Additionally, Skokie resident and EV1 employee Kalpesh Kant was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with liquor sale to minors, according to the EPD crime bulletin.

EV1 manager Pierre Largent said Kant was an employee-in-training and still works at the store even after his arrest.

“He was a trainee and he didn’t know anything,” Largent said. “There are a zillion things to learn during training and you’d need to have a computer in your brain to know it all.”

In response to the increased pressure, EV1 has ordered three new scanners that can definitively determine if an ID is legitimate or fake. The scanners will be installed on all three cash registers in the store.

Once the machines arrive, EV1 employees will stop making spot calls for IDs. Instead, they will solely rely on the ID scanners to render judgments regarding authenticity. Largent said this new protocol would solve the problem of increasingly realistic fake IDs.

“The IDs are so well-made that you can barely distinguish what is real and what isn’t,” Largent said.

Parrott said EPD started sending more officers and detectives to EV1 after receiving a complaint from Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) several weeks ago.

Fiske’s ward doesn’t include EV1 – the liquor store falls under the jurisdiction of Ald. Don Wilson (4th). However, Fiske owns pet store Fit + Frisky!, 1016 Davis St., directly adjacent to EV1 and said she received complaints from residents about underage purchases.

“There is a lot of foot traffic on Davis Street,” Fiske told The Daily on Wednesday. “People notice things and they mention it when they’re in my store and I passed that along to the chief of police.”

Fiske said she was not aware of the recent arrests, but insisted the apparent crackdown is “absolutely not” targeted at Northwestern students.

“I don’t think the city would do something like that,” Fiske said. “It’s strictly for all underage people. This is a very large city and we have lots of kids – high school age and college as well.”

Parrott similarly said last week that the increased police presence around EV1 was not targeted at University students.

“We’re not targeting Northwestern University students,” Parrott said last week. “We just want to call it to their attention that it’s unlawful for minors to possess alcohol.”

Parrott also said the fact that several people under 21 have been arrested “confirms the legitimacy of the complaint” and the heightened surveillance will continue as long as there continue to be arrests and complaints surrounding EV1.

“If we can’t rely on the assurance that the store is not going to sell to minors, then we’re going to step up our efforts,” he said.