Stopping underage drinking a struggle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2003

The struggle to catch - and stop - underage drinking and the use of fake IDs is nothing new.

But as technology evolves - and access to that technology increases - the struggle gets even harder for law enforcement officials and merchants.

Thanks to high-powered computers and scanners, high-quality printers and creative software, underage drinkers today can easily create realistic IDs with false information.

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The products are so convincing that, in many cases, only experts can tell them apart from actual licenses and IDs.

And, often, the clerks behind the counter in convenience stores and the checker at the door of the bar don't have an expert's eye.

But that same technology that easily can be used to manipulate the system also can be used to catch the offenders. Electronic scanning machines, similar to credit card readers, are being used in some states and in some high-volume supermarkets to validate an ID card or license.

But those machines are costly, and many merchants in small towns simply don't have them in place. That's why a Troy liquor store owner is campaigning for state or federal funding to help purchase and install the machines.

Pete Jordan says he would even "split the cost" with state officials if they would help pay to have the machines placed in Alabama stores.

We think it's a good suggestion. As a college town, Troy is a prime location for the machines. It's a matter of willingness to invest the money - on both the part of the state and the merchants - and we'd like to encourage both to do so.

It's a small investment that could reap big dividends.