Local police see rise in fake ID charges


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Iowa City police Officers Alex Stricker and Alirio Arcenas scour the Pedestrian Mall near midnight, flashlights in hand in search of fake IDs.

When they suspect one, they don't hesitate to take action.

"When we get an ID, the first thing you look at is the picture, and sometimes the picture is just terrible," Stricker said during patrol on April 7. "If there is any question, you just start asking birth dates, addresses. A lot of times people will memorize birthdays and they'll memorize the address, but they'll get the Zip Code wrong."

In 2011, the Iowa City police caught 52 instances of fake IDs, compared with the 16 they saw in 2010. In 2009, police charged 33 with possessing fake IDs.

So far in 2012, there have been seven instances of fake IDs and 18 cases of unlawful use of a driver's license/ID at the Iowa City police department.

The number of UI police ID-related charges did decrease from 79 charges in 2010 to 68 in 2011, though that number is still double the levels of 2009.

Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said the decrease may have to do with the sophistication of fake IDs.

"I can only speculate that technology has made it easier to market to a much larger audience and produce a more authentic-looking product," he said in an email.

One student possessing a fake ID — who requested anonymity because of legal ramifications — said she has seen an increase in people she knows with fake IDs since the 21-ordinance went into effect.

"I think it has to do with the fact that [people] don't feel safe at house parties," she said. "They'd rather be at a bar."

The student said she feels there aren't many alternatives in the Iowa City community other than going downtown.

"You don't really have much of a choice because there's not much else offered in Iowa City," she said.

The UI Partnership for Alcohol Safety is developing a strategic plan this fall, and officials said they will discuss combating fake IDs.

Some restaurant owners with an exemption to the 21-ordinance said they still encounter fake IDs.

George Etre, the owner of Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave., said the business doesn't see a lot of fake IDs because it's primarily a restaurant, but he has noticed an increase in the past year.

"Before it was sister's IDs, cousin's, but now you are seeing more of fabricated IDs," he said. "Now, kids are trying to get more creative in finding ways to get past [the rules]."

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said that since January, the Library, 113 E. College St., and the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., have been the only establishments to turn in fake IDs to the Iowa City police.

Kelly Bender, the UI coordinator for alcohol-harm reduction, said the inadequate amount of in-person and online training is one of the biggest problems in combating fake IDs.

"Many bar staff haven't been properly trained to detect and confiscate fake IDs," she said.

However, state officials are taking steps to properly train bar owners and staff. On March 1, the state Alcoholic Beverages Division launched the Iowa Program for Alcohol Compliance Training. The program is the first free, online training implemented statewide, and 900 Iowans had completed the training as of the end of March.

Despite the training, Bender said, fake IDs are becoming more sophisticated — yet police officials don't always agree.

"If they're getting better, that might just mean we're missing them," Stricker said, noting officials are aware of the common websites people typically use to obtain fake IDs.

Yet Bender said police will always work with UI officials and bar owners to combat them.

"Fake IDs in general have always been present," she said. "It's always been there, the 21-ordinance may have bumped it up by trying harder to get into bars."

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