WAVERLY -- Prompted by a recent rash of underage stings conducted by the state, two local businesses -- Waverly Liquor and Wine and the Jolly Farmer -- have taken the initiative to not only protect their business interests, but through the use of new technology, reduce the use of fake identification for underage alcohol purchases.
A new $795 device -- produced by Viage -- is capable of verifying or flagging fake IDs from both the United States and Canada, as well as featuring a ban list, password protection, and credit card verification.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a coordinated statewide effort to crack-down on underage drinking on college campuses and college towns.
At that time, Cuomo cited a successful round of sweeps conducted last year that resulted in the seizure of 862 fraudulent licenses and the arrest of 818 individuals.
"They hire underage kids to come in to see," explained Waverly Liquor and Wine owner Chris Sisto. "We had a fake ID here before we had the machine and the only way we knew it was fake, was because the two girls that used them happened to go to school with one of my employee's nieces at Tioga Center in high school. When I saw this (device), I said 'let's get ahead of the curve."
The New York State Liquor Authority is really cracking down on underage sales, Sisto added.
"For us, we're trying to show the community that we're attempting to take more steps than is necessary to assure that fake IDs are not being used, and that we are carding people," said Jolly Farmer co-owner Kyle Burns.
Sisto explained that new online companies sell fake IDs with halograms, watermarks, and even feature the transparent photograph found in the bottom right-hand side of New York drivers licenses.
"These fake IDs were so good," Sisto said. "I handed them to the Waverly police officer and he said 'Chris, what're you handing me these for?' I said, 'they are fake.'"
Together with the department of motor vehicles and local law enforcement agencies, the state liquor authority issued 1,077 penalties to licensed retailers for underage sales in 2016.
Businesses found to be in violation of SLA age-verification policies can face a $10,000 fine -- per violation -- and for repeat offenders, license revocation.
"My ladies at night love it, because it does take a lot of the guesswork out of it," said Sisto. "I mean, you still have to make sure it's the right person. We've had a lot of expired licenses, and you can't take those."
The business owners said that customers typically do not get mad about the ID-verificatio
"I think they know that we're doing our jobs," said Sisto.
"I like to think peoples' attitudes have changed about being ID'd all together," said Burns.
The pair noted that the new technology should expedite customers' shopping experiences as the holiday season approaches, and business picks up.
"This store is packed. My store is packed," explained Sisto. "We can walk around and check people when they're out on the floor and save the time from them doing it up there (at the register)."
"We have a lot of tastings, and we use it for those as well," Sisto added.
As with most cases where personal information is involved, some patrons have concerns regarding lack of privacy when their licenses are scanned.
"We can delete that from the machine whenever we want," Sisto explained. "Basically, I clear it out every week and just start a new week. I don't see any reason for us to keep people's name, address, age -- we don't need it."
"It's information that I don't want," added Burns.
According to the SLA, individuals under the age of 21 found using fake IDs with the intent of purchasing alcohol can be arrested and have their license revoked for a minimum of 90 days or up to one year.
Of the crackdown, Cuomo said "underage drinking is illegal, reckless and can have life-altering consequences, and this crackdown is holding accountable those who seek to enable this dangerous behavior."
"Underage drinking can have lifelong consequences and lead to future substance use disorders," said New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez. "Crackdowns like this are valuable prevention tools in the battle against addiction."