Archive for Monday, August 23, 1999

WAR AGAINST FAKE IDS GETTING HIGH-TECH

August 23, 1999

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The improved quality of fake IDs keeps Lawrence bar owners and police on their toes.

Computers have elevated fake IDs to a new, improved level, and it's one technological advance Lawrence bar owners say they could live without.

Fake driver's licenses are getting so good that even law enforcement officers have to call in IDs to discern real from bogus, says Rita Madl, owner of The Sandbar, a downtown tavern.

To stay in business and avoid paying fines, Madl and other bar owners must keep a close eye on fake IDs. Madl recently invested $3,750 in a system called "Eye on ID," which videotapes patrons' licenses and captures her employees carding at the door.

"It puts the crime on the person who's committing it, not us," said Madl, president of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn., a trade group with 22 members in Lawrence.

The system photographs a patron's ID and projects the image on a split screen so bar workers can compare the license photograph to the person in front of them.

"It's 100 percent proof that we check IDs," Madl said.

That's especially important if patrons show police their real IDs if approached in the bar, she said.

The Sandbar has been using the system for three or four months, joining several other Lawrence taverns using technology to combat technology. Madl also bought a handheld device called an "Age Verifier" that scans the magnetic strips on the backs of driver's licenses to confirm information on the front.

The Jayhawk Cafe -- known as The Hawk -- has used "Eye on ID" since last fall, said Oliver Sowards, a manager.

Sowards agrees identifying fake licenses requires a keener eye nowadays.

"Let's just say they're a lot better," he said.

Two Kansas University students recently have been in Douglas County District Court on charges of dealing in fake IDs. One reached a plea agreement with prosecutors; the other faces a November trial.

"I hope that as more kids get prosecuted by this, less people attempt to do it," Madl said.

Police spokesman Sgt. George Wheeler said false IDs pose a problem for many reasons, not just those related to alcohol. Fake IDs can be used to help forge prescriptions and cash bogus checks, for example, he said.

"One of the reasons we have a lot of false IDs is because we have underage students or people in general trying to buy alcohol," Wheeler said. "It tends to balloon up around the school year."

Wheeler agrees the quality of bogus licenses has improved over the years.

"You can produce something like that on a regular desktop computer," he said.

In 1998, police fielded 35 fraudulent ID cases and 181 minor-in-possession charges. When police catch an underage drinker using a fake ID, they typically arrest him or her for the fraudulent use of an ID and being a minor in possession of alcohol, the spokesman said.

Police do bar checks on a regular basis, Wheeler said.

"Generally, as manpower allows, we'll put out a bar car Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when we know there will be a lot of people out," the spokesman said.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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