Oak Park police are about to launch the enforcement component of a state-sponsored tobacco enforcement program, focused on all village retail outlets that sell cigarettes. Starting as early as Thursday, police, accompanied by underage, would-be cigarette purchasers, will begin visiting stores under a grant from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s Tobacco Enforcement Program intended to help assure compliance with local and state laws regarding the sale of cigarettes to minors.

“We’ll send an average-looking, underage person into the establishment to see if the vendor will sell cigarettes without requesting identification,” said Commander Phyliss Howard, who added that a police officer will accompany the youth both for protection and to observe the transaction from a distance. If cigarettes are sold to the youth, the vendor will get either a citation or a warning, based on their history.

The best way to avoid that, Howard said, is to always ask for identification.

“If a vendor doesn’t ask for ID and sells, the officer will intervene,” she said.

Howard added that her department isn’t looking to trap people. In fact, the state program requires offering educational opportunities to all vendors prior to the enforcement aspect of the program. She said all retail Oak Park cigarette vendors have been previously notified of the program by mail, and the department is also trying to spread the word through the media.

“Mainly this is so people will be aware,” she said.

Howard said police recently completed a training session for vendors on how to spot fake IDs. That session, she noted, was attended by eight individuals, all of whom were among the ten vendors cited last year for selling tobacco products to minors. The state program requires three compliance checks on each tobacco retailer in the program’s enforcement component. Last year that program caught 10 vendors selling to minors.

“Ten vendors, that’s unacceptable,” said Howard, who added that it’s not difficult to avoid violating the law and getting slapped with a citation.

“The easiest thing to do is just ask for an ID,” said Howard.

 D97 Strategic Plan moving forward

The District 97 Strategic Planning Steering Committee wrapped up three days of intense workshops on Saturday as the district gears up for its first strategic plan since 1989.

For three days beginning last Thursday, the 27-member committee, representing constituency groups from Dist. 97, Dist. 200 and residents of Oak Park, formulated goals, identified beliefs and set objectives that will guide next year’s strategic planning process.

The next step following the weekend retreat involves Dist. 97 Supt. Constance Collins presenting the steering committee’s draft plan to the community within the next several weeks.

At that time, action teams, comprised of various constituency groups, will be formed to work on aspects of the draft plan expected to begin in January. The final draft plan is scheduled to be presented to the District 97 Board of Education next March.

Dist. 97 officials will discuss the steering committee weekend retreat at next Wednesday’s regular school board meeting at Dist. 97 headquarters, 970 Madison. Look for a preview of the retreat and draft plan in next week’s Wednesday Journal.

OP’s 1st family expecting 2nd daughter

David Pope and his wife, Beth-their hands already full with 3-year-old Elise, the village presidency, jobs, etc.-are expecting a baby daughter on Jan. 15.

Congratulations to the Pope family.

Join the discussion on social media!