But Dover police chief Robert Edwards says that fake IDs present a danger to both businesses and individuals alike, and he has spent decades combating their use both locally and statewide, and training businesses across the valley and Windham County on how to spot them. Last year Edwards teamed up with the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership to use a two-year, $40,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Health Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs to expand the program. As the Windham County coordinator of START (Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team), Edwards says the goal is simple: Keep alcohol out of underage hands.
“Over the past year we reached out around the country to other law enforcement agencies and developed what we consider to be one of the best training programs anywhere,” said Edwards. “This training is then provided to local law enforcement, bars, and stores.”
The training that businesses receive combines both samples of real IDs and samples of fakes, and a sure-fire way of finding flaws through the use of LED lights and magnifying glasses that look for discrepancies, special insignias, and holograms.
Edwards has tailored the false ID identification program to target the types of IDs that typically come through the valley, but even so, he says that training can become out of date within as short a time span as a year. This is because companies that make fake IDs continue to find new ways of changing the game, making higher quality fakes.
For the employees of 7-Eleven in West Dover, the training has paid off. According to the store’s co-manager Chris, who asked to have his last name withheld from publication, the program has turned his employees into experts who, in a slow week, will net three to five, and on weekends, up to 10 in one day. The store’s proximity to Mount Snow, the destination of many out-of-staters, makes it the target of many of those who come to town with fake IDs in their pockets.
“The people that work here do a great job protecting the business,” said Chris. “If somebody underage was to leave our store, get intoxicated, and do damage somewhere, there is liability involved and our employees do a good job of keeping alcohol out of underage hands.”
Employees of stores like the West Dover 7-Eleven are sent to a state training session on fake IDs every 24 months, and each new employee is given on-the-spot training as well.
“Our area bars and stores regularly call the Dover Police Department with yet another false ID,” said Edwards. “There have been approximately 50 cases just since mid-December 2012, and we follow up on each of these cases and because establishments do a great job getting plate numbers, we end up finding and charging 95% of the youth that attempt to use them.”
Edwards says that in some cases, the results are immediate. Recently, a local retail business that has been operating for years received special on-site training. Within less than 30 minutes of receiving the training the business got its first false ID and several others within the week.
One false Rhode Island driver’s license confiscated in West Dover came from ID Chief, an overseas company that is popular among college students. According to Edwards, overseas companies like chief ID have created a huge problem for US security. It is estimated that young people were sending $30 million a year to this company, which allowed it to produce even better fakes. The same store where the ID was confiscated was trained on this company’s tactics, and 14 more Rhode Island driver’s licenses were confiscated as a result “The problem is these fakes are not just popular with college kids, but also with identity thieves,” said Edwards.
The training program was given a big boost this summer with a Vermont Department of Health grant, sponsored by the DVCP, whose mission is to reduce drug and alcohol use among youth. According to DVCP coordinator Cindy Hayford, the goal of the grant is to have a specific focus on local underage drinking.
“Being a resort area, we’re a little different than the other communities in Windham County,” said Hayford. “We have so many young people coming in from the outside, and our local youth connect with other youths that are visiting at the mountain and that can become access if they have a false ID, and it can potentially put alcohol in our kid’s hands.”
Hayford would like to see the program expand through other areas of the valley and beyond. She believes the DVCP’s partnership with Edwards and START can and will provide a wider area to cover. “The whole idea is around our goal of preventing underage drinking by preventing access and it lets businesses be part of the wall between kids and alcohol.”
Edwards says that businesses should never look at the process as if they are the ones being watched because no business is trying to sell alcohol to minors, and to get the proper training puts law enforcement and local businesses on the same page. Edwards also expressed that minors often don’t know the ramifications of their actions, even though they can be heavy.
“First and foremost they put businesses and employees at risk of criminal and civil liabilities if they end up selling to them,” said Edwards. “For the youth themselves just possession of a false, borrowed, or loaned driver’s license is a $293 fine and 60-day suspension of their driver’s license. We have also found out that their auto insurance is likely to go up as much as $600 per year. A conviction on this can cause them additional problems in the future; especially if they plan on joining the military or other job that requires a security clearance.”
Minors can also be charged with “misrepresenting their age to purchase alcohol” which carries a $300 fine and 90-day suspension of their driver’s license. This is the most likely charge and if it is a first offense they are eligible for the Teen Alcohol Safety Program (TASP). This program includes a fine, alcohol assessments, and community service in order to come out with a clean record.