When Ernesto Hernandez decided to take a walk to his neighborhood convenience store over the weekend, he was shocked to see nearly a dozen law enforcement agents swarming the Ontario business.
"I thought it was a raid or something," said Hernandez, who lives a few blocks away from the Amigos Speedo Liquor Store at Holt Boulevard and Cypress Avenue.
Authorities were at the small convenience store to make sure the owner complying with his liquor license regulations as well as other city and state laws.
"It's good they check on this stuff," Hernandez said. "I just hope they don't give him a hard time because he's a good guy"
Nearly 100 law enforcement agents from various agencies converged on the Inland Empire on Friday for an alcohol-enforcement operation known as IMPACT, resulting in numerous citations for such offenses as selling alcohol to minors, public intoxication, selling unauthorized alcohol. One man was arrested on suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes and possession of methamphetamine.
Agents from the Ontario Police Department, state Alcoholic Beverage Control, the state Bureau of Security and Investigative services, the California State Lottery, city code enforcement and other Inland Empire law enforcement agencies, including the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, checked 105 locations - including liquor stores, bars, grocery stores and restaurants - in 11 cities.
"The main objective isn't to write citations but to educate business owners on the rules and regulations in operating a business that sells or provides alcohol," said police Cpl. Bill Russell. "Selling alcohol is a privilege."
Authorities hope that by educating the owners, they can in turn help to reduce alcohol-related crimes such as vandalism, assaults and drinking and driving.
From operations such as IMPACT and have special DUI enforcements, Ontario has seen "a dramatic drop in those alcohol-related crimes," Russell said.
While the owner of Amigos Speedo Liquor reportedly had some code enforcement violations, officials said the area has improved greatly since Ontario police began the compliance checks.
The graffiti that nearly covered the walls of the store are nearly gone and in its place are two signs warning people that alcohol may not be consumed on the premises and loitering is not allowed.
At bars and restaurants, officers checked to make sure bartenders weren't serving minors, that they were purchasing their alcohol from a wholesaler and not a retail store, and to check for insects or other contaminants in the bottles of liquor.
During the compliance check, officers arrested 62-year-old Bipinchandra Patel of Diamond Bar after they reportedly found methamphetamine and illegal cigarettes smuggled into the country to avoid paying taxes on the items, Russell said.
The cigarettes lacked the proper stamp indicating California taxes had been paid and in fact, Russell said, the packages were clearly marked as not for sale in the United States.
It was unclear if Patel or any of his employees were selling drugs from the business, said Russell, adding that authorities would be investigating.
Officers also reportedly found a handgun not registered to Patel. He was not arrested on any firearm charges because officials couldn't determine if it was legally registered to another family member or employee, authorities said.
The operation, which went into early Saturday morning, resulted in state ABC violations at 83 locations as well as city code and fire violations at 45 establishments, officials said.
Authorities reported three security violations, two bars cited for selling alcohol not purchased through a proper wholesaler, a drunk-in-public arrest, three minors cited for possession of alcohol, one citation for selling alcohol to a minor and three people cited for having an open container of alcohol in public.