PANAMA CITY-- Bay County Sheriff's investigators consulted with a number of school resource deputies to find out if there really is a big problem with underage alcohol sales.
Then they launched the undercover operation Wednesday night, sending minors into mostly convenience stores to try and buy alcohol.
"I was surprised that so many didn't ask for ID and just sold,” said Captain Jimmy Stanford, Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
Stanford led the operation, sending six 18-and-19 year olds into 87 stores.
The underage teens did not carry any identification while attempting to buy the booze.
"Each store that we went to, we logged if they refused, or ID'd them and refused to sell to them, or if they in fact sell it to them."
Of the 87-businesses, Stanford says 32 stores sold alcohol to the minors.
"It's not just a drinking and driving issue, it's also a criminal issue with sexual assault."
Experts say alcohol use by people under 21 is also a major public health problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among American youth, responsible for more than 4300 deaths a year.
"I hope that these business owners, these companies realize that this is a problem and kind of get on their employees to be more diligent and insuring that people are on age when they buy the alcohol beverages."
Officials say reducing underage drinking requires community based efforts.
Each of the cited clerks faces a misdemeanor charge.