NORTH KINGSTOWN—If you’re under 21 years old and are thinking of buying alcohol or tobacco, you might want to think again.
Thanks to the coordinated efforts of North Kingstown’s Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, the North Kingstown Police Department and local liquor store owners, there’s a new tool, an identification recognition scanner, designed to curb the use of fake identification.
The scanner looks much like an old-school credit card swipe machine but with new-school electronics.
Merchants take an ID from any customer whose age they’re unsure of and zip it through the scanner, with the picture facing front.
In a matter seconds, the scanner reads the bar code on the back and the person’s name, date of birth and license number appear on the face of the scanner.
In the lower corners of the small machine, there is an icon of a martini glass on one side and a cigarette on the other.
If an X appears over either icon for whatever the person is attempting to purchase that shows the ID has been altered.
NK Chief of Police Thomas Mulligan said the scanners will be another great tool for local merchants to use in the fight against underage drinking and smoking.
“If they know the scanners are out there,” Mulligan said of underage customers. “Then maybe they won’t be so quick to try to make that purchase.”
While there is a cheat sheet merchants can refer to that goes by the date of birth, Sergeant John MacCoy said this device will take the guesswork out of anything altered.
“Most of the 50 states are in compliance with using that strip and they can’t change that strip,” he said.
Kalpesh Patel, owner of Colonial Wine and Spirits and Frank Fede, owner of Kingstown Liquors, are looking forward to having the latest in technology to help them keep alcohol and tobacco out of the hands of minors.
And, though both said they don’t see many fake IDs in their stores, they say when they do, a fake can be hard to decipher.
“What I like is how it’s recorded and that will alleviate them signing the book and we do have a camera system to show that we did check the card,” said Fede.
The scanners cost $900 each and were purchased with a grant from the Rhode Island Abuse Prevention Act through the Department of Behavioral Health Development and Disabilities and Hospitals.
“Our goal is to reduce access to alcohol and tobacco by minors,” said Kathy Yeager, coordinator for the Working Together for Wellness at North Kingstown’s Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. “We know if we reduce access, we reduce use and, by doing so, keep our youth and our community healthy and safe.”
Yeager said the scanners couldn’t come at a better time with the upcoming prom, graduation and the summer season.
“We know that during these months, risky behavior like underage drinking may occur more frequently, jeopardizing the safety of our youth and community,” she said. “The ID Vision scanner will be a valuable tool to help merchants keep alcohol and tobacco out of the hands of minors.”
The scanners, also known as the IDvisor, were first developed by TokenWorks Inc in 1998. They assist in the age verification process for nightclubs, bars, casinos, liquor and convenience stores and supermarkets throughout the country and can also be used as a record keeper with the ability to store 9,000 entries.
The idea to use this tool locally came in 2009 when Yeager began asking the police department and town officials if there have been many issues with the sales of alcohol to minors.
In 2010, all four liquor stores in town, Wickford Package Store, Kingstown Liquor Mart, Quaker Lane Liquors and Colonial Wine and Spirits, participated in an educational training workshop which provided information about new technology that can assist in preventing improper use of identification cards.
Store owners will begin to use the scanners immediately.