Photo Illustration by Lauren Murphy | Asst. Photo EditorNews
Faking it: Students willing to break laws to enhance social lives
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the reason why Kristen Beatty used a fake ID was misstated. Beatty used it to buy alcohol occasionally. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Five seconds. That’s all it takes.
It’s the same process every time. An underage student will wait for the bouncer of an area bar to look at his or her ID, scan it and give him or her the curt, go-ahead nod.
But in those five seconds, the bouncer fails to realize the student’s ID is fake, often including a photo not at all resembling the actual student.
For many underage SU students, fake IDs are essential. Viewed by many as a catalyst for an active social life, some students will take creative and drastic measures to obtain a fake ID.
“Our campus, like other campuses around the nation, revolves around a social scene,” said Kristen Beatty, a senior broadcast journalism and political science major, in a Facebook interview. “I think the people who do have fakes on our campus get them just to increase their social opportunities.”
Beatty, who had a Maryland fake ID her sophomore year, said she used it to buy alcohol occasionally.
On a typical weekend, at least one-third of the people trying to get into bars will have a fake ID, said Blake Reading, a junior film major and a former bouncer for a Marshall Street bar. Students who are involved in greek life and those who reported a heavy drinking episode are more likely to own a fake ID, according to a July 2011 “Addictive Behaviors” study.
The study found 7.7 percent of incoming college freshmen own fake IDs.
When the lights came on at Maggie’s, Alejandro Fernandez-Lovo knew something was wrong. The then-SU senior never really liked Maggie’s, but was there for a friend’s birthday. At the time, he didn’t know he would be one of the bar’s last customers.
Maggie’s Restaurant and Sports Bar was raided on April 1, 2009 by the New York State Liquor Authority, the Syracuse Police Department, New York State Police, the Department of Public Safety and the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office.
The bar was cited for underage drinking, sale of alcohol to a minor and possessing or using fake identification.
“I’ve heard of other bouncers at other bars being offered sex for getting into the bars. I would get offered money to buy beer and stuff like that.”
Blake Reading, former bouncer for Marshall Street bar
The State Liquor Authority revoked the bar’s liquor license and two weeks later, the bar was shut down for good. Police confiscated 53 fake IDs and distributed approximately 87 citations for underage drinking.
The raid was organized through Operation Prevent, a program that aimed to reduce underage drinking near the university. But the program was eliminated when its grant money ran out, said Lt. Shannon Trice of SPD.
SPD still patrols the bars in Syracuse, but no major raids have occurred in the past couple of years, said Trice, who was head of the operation.
“We’re asking the bars to be vigilant,” Trice said. “Some of them are, some of them aren’t.”
During Operation Prevent, about 500 citations were given a year for possession of fake IDs. Currently, about 50 citations are given a year, he said.
“It was a very good program. It’s something we probably need to do more of, but unfortunately in these tight times, with lack of personnel and lack of money, it becomes difficult,” Trice said. “Things have to be prioritized.”
When the Department of Public Safety or even SPD encounters a student with a fake ID, the student is usually subjected to judicial review within the university, said Lt. Vernon Thompson, Investigations and Crime Prevention Commander for DPS.
Trice said he feels the raid at Maggie’s changed the way bars check IDs.
“Anytime you affect people’s pocketbooks you’ll see changes in behavior,” he said. “Obviously the bar owners on the hill are there to make money and we just want to make sure there aren’t underage drinkers consuming alcoholic beverages.”
To be served alcohol at Harry’s Bar, one of the oldest bars on Marshall Street, a customer must have three forms of identification, said Luc Logan, a bartender at Harry’s. They can include a driver’s license, an SUID or a debit card.
“Our owner doesn’t want to lose the bar and get screwed over with fake IDs,” Logan said.
The State Liquor Authority, part of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, provides liquor licenses with ID training, said Bill Crowley, director of public and legislative affairs for the New York SLA.
He said the SLA recommends bars and liquor stores use scanners when checking IDs.
Stephen Theobald, the new owner of Chuck’s Cafe, said he is thinking about having his bouncers use scanners.
“It’s certainly an evolving challenge,” Theobald said. “But to be honest I’m not sure that (scanners) are the end-all, be-all answer.”
For the 1,000 students that go to D.J.’s every weekend, the bar’s bouncer scans every ID and asks for a second form of identification, said owner Dean Whittles.
“We don’t want to put any student in jeopardy when drinking and we don’t want to put our liquor license in jeopardy,” he said. “I’ve got to be honest with you; I would be lying if I say that there is not fake-ID culture on campus.”
The owners of Faegan’s Pub & Cafe and Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar & Restaurant could not be reached for comment.
Blake Reading, the former bouncer, had a brief training on how to check IDs when he was a bouncer. He was told to memorize key characteristics of IDs that could be easily replicated. Reading said he usually bent and rolled IDs and looked for holograms.
There are bouncers working at bars on Marshall Street that aren’t trained, Reading said. Some simply look for age, while others ask for a second form of ID to see if the name matches.
“I’ve heard of other bouncers at other bars being offered sex for getting into the bars,” Reading said. “I would get offered money to buy beer and stuff like that.”
Maurice Krohl, owner of Student Choice Foods on Marshall Street, has a signature move when checking IDs. He requires the customer to sign his or her name on a piece of paper to make sure that it matches the ID.
If Krohl finds a fake, he pushes a hidden button, locking the customer inside the store, and then calls the police.
Luc Logan has a different tactic when checking IDs at Harry’s.
When coming upon IDs from Maryland, Logan, who served time in the military, asks for the state’s capitol of Annapolis, home of the U.S. Navy. But people often respond with Baltimore, tipping him off to the fake ID. He also asks students for their astrological sign.
“It’s not worth the risk,” Logan said. “There are a million parties on the Hill. Just go to one of those.”
Allie, an advertising major who declined to release her last name, said she thinks fake-ID websites are sketchy and unreliable. So instead of using a website, she went to Canada.
“I felt some pressure to get a fake coming into college,” she said. “I guess I didn’t want people to have to buy alcohol for me all the time.”
The stores that make fake IDs create false advertising for novelty or souvenir IDs, which are technically legal in Canada, Allie said. There is constantly an employee outside the store on the lookout for Toronto police.
The IDs are scanned in front of the customers to show that they work. The entire process takes 20 minutes and costs $30 U.S. dollars, Allie said.
“I will obviously never use it in Canada, but I wasn’t afraid to use it at all in the United States because no one knows what Canadian IDs look like anyway,” she said.
DPS has encountered students with international IDs, specifically fake passports. These cases are directly reported to the federal government, Thompson said.
Said Thompson: “That’s a whole different nightmare that you don’t want to get into.”
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