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Liquor stores, bars 'scan' for minors, making students' fake IDs useless

Tufts' increasingly strict alcohol policies mirror growing anti-underage drinking movement in the Boston area

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:08


Daily File Photo

A local liquor store reminds students of the legal drinking age. With stricter enforcement of drinking rules for Greek parties on campus and the use of more advanced scanners at local bars and liquor stores, students under 21 are being deterred from drinking.

Holograms, scanners and back-ups: Oh my! With recent changes to the Tufts Greek system and tighter policies by local liquor stores and bars, the barriers to underage drinking are increasing for Jumbos.

Last semester, reports that Greek houses at Tufts would be forced to abide by a strict BYOB policy when throwing parties worried fraternity brothers and fraternity-goers alike. This semester, Patrick Romero-Aldaz, Tufts' new Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, announced that the university would strictly enforce dry rush rules.

These increasingly stringent campus drinking policies may reflect a greater anti-underage drinking movement in Massachusetts.

Though there have been changes within the Greek system, Sergeant Robert McCarthy said that on campus, TUPD policies have remained the same.

"I've been here for 35 years," McCarthy said. "I don't think it's any different now than it was when I first got here."

Typically, when an underage student is caught drinking, a report is written up and sent to the Dean's office. After three incidents involving alcohol, a student can be suspended. According to McCarthy, TUPD has the right to arrest underage students, though most incidents are handled through Tufts' judicial system.

While TUPD has maintained the status quo on-campus underage drinking policies, other area schools are implementing programs that intend to make major changes. The Cambridge Prevention Coalition, a group that has worked with servers and sellers of alcohol, aims to reduce "the effects of substance abuse" in Cambridge by promoting abstinence from drinking. The coalition works closely with both MIT and Harvard.

"We are really lucky because both of those schools have really strong prevention programs," Coalition Director Gisela Rots told the Daily. "We're able to offer different programming there."

Outside of college campuses, local liquor stores are beginning to take steps to make using fake identification much more difficult, subsequently making underage drinking less accessible. Many stores have purchased more sophisticated ID scanners, and some require young customers with out-of-state IDs to provide backup identification that provides proof of the customer's name and date of birth.

According to one Tufts junior, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of punishment, it is becoming increasingly difficult for underage drinkers with fake IDs to enter area bars. The student, who sold fake IDs to students at Tufts for a period of time, said he considers himself to be somewhat of an expert on fake IDs and underage drinking.

The junior warned Jumbos with fake IDs that even bars that were once thought to accept "bad" IDs have been cracking down and raising their standards.

Furthermore, the student said he believes that as rules continue to become more stringent, underage drinkers will forego the more traditional route of getting a fake ID through a friend of a friend of a friend. Rather, students eager for a fake ID may begin to pay older people who look like them to request new licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles and new insurance cards from their providers.

While older scanners only verified that the barcode on the back of the ID was registered to someone over 21 in the country, new scanners can bring up more information about the person to whom the barcode is registered. For example, if an underage drinker's fake ID has his or her name on it, the ID will be immediately recognized as fake when scanned.

As more liquor stores purchase these advanced scanners, it is possible that fake IDs may eventually become obsolete.

An employee at Hillside Wine & Spirits on Boston Avenue, who wished to remain anonymous due to the controversial nature of underage drinking, said that the store does work hard to enforce the legal drinking age. If caught selling alcohol to minors, the store could be shut down for a period of time or face heavy fines.

"We absolutely [try to look out for underage drinking,]" the employee said. "And it's for the ethics of it as well; we don't support underage drinking at all."

According to the employee, when a young customer attempts to buy alcohol from the store, the clerk must ask for the customer's license. If the license is from out of state, the clerk asks for another form of back-up identification which includes the individual's birthday on it. He explained that the back-up applies to customers with out-of-state licenses because while employees are supposed to recognize every license "trick," doing so can be difficult when there are 50 states with 50 different licenses.

If a clerk does recognize a fake ID, the customer is asked to leave the store and is told that should he or she return with the ID again, it will be confiscated and authorities will be notified.

Rots discussed the consequences of using fake identification. "Fake IDs are bad all the way around," she said. "You can be prosecuted. It can affect your standing at your college. It can affect your ability to get financial aid."

Rots said that the coalition encourages total abstinence from drinking because the use of alcohol in people under the age of 21 has been shown to have detrimental effects on their health.

"Binge drinking is becoming more and more popular among college students, which is really scary," Rots said. "Brain cells keep developing until you're 21. Heavy drinking before the age of 21 can really [cause] long term damage on yourself."

However, the Tufts junior believes that the crackdown on underage drinking will only incite college students to use more dangerous tactics. Instead of drinking in a more restrained manner, he said, those who know they will not be able to drink when they go to fraternities or bars will hurry to get drunk before arriving.

"People get sick when they are rushing to get drunk before they go out," the junior said. "College kids are going to drink no matter what. [Advocating abstinence from drinking] is like telling kids not to have sex, rather than figuring that they will anyway, and offering them condoms so that when they do it, at least they are safe."

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