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Phone Scanners Offer Less Expensive, More Effective Means to Snag Fake IDs

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

During a three-hour public hearing Tuesday on the proposed creation of a Downtown District that would require restaurant/bar owners to add security, cameras, have a safety plan and use ID scanners, one of the biggest bones of contention was the ID scanners.

Several local bar owners said the scanners aren’t that effective in catching underage drinking due to sophisticated software that allows the fake ID cards to show “good” when being scanned. Age verification scanners can also we be costly, ranging from $200 to $3,000 per hand-held scanner.
However, Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill says the reasoning behind requiring the ID scanners is to help cut down on underage drinking and if only a few are deterred, then it’s worth it.
Rusty Hanna, chief enforcement officer for the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s Alcohol Beverage Control division, says there’s another, less expensive—and actually more effective—way to scan driver’s licenses to check for age.
“The internet licenses and ID cards kids are getting nowadays off the internet are so sophisticated you can’t detect they are fake just by looking at them like you used to,” Hanna said. “The old scanners were used that compared the info coming off the barcode to the front of the ID can’t be used anymore either.”
Today, ABC officers check driver’s licenses and ID cards using a simple app on their cell phone. There’s a monthly charge to use the service, Hanna said.
“There are several companies out there that do this,” he said. “It has really changed the game for us. Last year, our fake ID arrests went up over previous years because we can detect them easier and quicker now.”
Prior to using the app, the way officers checked driver’s licenses was to call dispatch and have them run the suspect fake ID holder’s name to see if it matched the card.
“Trying to do that in a bar with loud music wasn’t feasible,” Hanna said. “Depending on the internet connection, it could be very slow and cumbersome.”
Oxford Police Chief Joey East, who has worked extensively on the wording creating the Downtown District, agreed the cell phone app might just be a good solution.
“We are testing it now so we can have first-hand data at our next meeting,” East said.
In the original proposed ordinance, the Downtown District was defined as the area west of the Lafayette County Courthouse, beginning on the west side of the Square and proceeding west on Jackson Avenue to include those businesses on the south side of Jackson Avenue to South 10th Street; then proceeding south to the north side of Van Buren Avenue to include those businesses on the east side of South 10th Street, and then proceeding east on Van Buren Avenue to South Lamar Boulevard to include those businesses on the North side of Van Buren Avenue.
However, Tannehill said after having conversations with the businesses inside that area, restricting the Downtown District to the proposed area could leave those businesses at a “competitive disadvantage” with other establishments outside of the District. It could push problems that the proposed ordinance aims to fix—like crowd control, safety concerns and underage drinking—to other parts of the Square where those businesses would not have the same requirements, she said Tuesday.
The Board of Aldermen will be holding another public hearing at 10 a.m. July 2 at the Oxford Conference Center where Hanna will talk about the cell phone scanning app, along with other ways to help reduce underage drinking and minors being in possession of fake IDs, like allowing youths 18 and up into the bars.
“Some of these kids just want to dance and hang out with other people and friends who might be over 21,” Hanna said. “But just to go they feel they have to get a fake ID, even those who don’t even want to drink.”


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