People dressed to the nines stand in front of Z330 Bar in Fayetteville, cold and wet from the rain, on a late Friday night in March. They seem eager, as they wait for their identification cards to be scanned by a bouncer, who uses a national cell phone app created by an Arkansan, Rick Crisman.
Crisman, deputy director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control in Arkansas created a .99 cent app known as Mobile ID Guide. Several employees at bars and restaurants in Northwest Arkansas say they use the app, and that it is effective at catching minors trying to illegally drink.
As Josh Rivers, a bouncer at the bar scans an ID using the handy app, a bright red light becomes another neon glow in front of the bar. A fake has been detected.
“I can’t take this. This is a fake,” Josh Rivers, employee at Z330 bar says. Agitated, the minor says, “No it’s not. Try it again.”
As Rivers gives the minor a look of irritation, the minor turns around, and walks away alone into the dark night. Within seconds, the color red fills the dark night sky, and another ID is confiscated.
The night continues on, and with every passing hour, more IDs are caught.
By the end of that particular Friday night, nearly 10 fake IDs were confiscated, which resulted in 10 people leaving alone and embarrassed, and without a stiff drink.
This is nothing new, Rivers says. “Nearly five to 10 a night are taken up— easily that many.”
With that many fakes confiscated each night; it’s no wonder that the ABC and Fayetteville Police Department obtained more than 2,000 IDs during 2013.
There’s a large demand for forged identification cards because of several places internationally in which people may purchase fake IDs. Some businesses like Kopy Kats in the Dallas area, and many websites including ID Chief, Really Good Fakes, and Novelty ID, create and sell the sophisticated fakes.
ID Chief is a website out of China.
“They’re like the COSCO for fake IDs,” Crisman said.
People may purchase fake IDs from that website at $250 a pop. A ‘buddy discount’ is offered for bulk orders. More people means less prices.
Crisman said he became interested in the rising problem of fake IDs while he worked as a corporal for FPD. He began with bar controls; sometimes he was dressed in his blue police uniform, and other times in street clothes.
Street clothes were also worn when he did undercover busts at liquor stores known as “cops in shops.”
“I really, really enjoyed it,” Crisman said. “I started studying about IDs and what makes a fake a fake.”
A few years passed, and Crisman began thinking of ways to make the process more efficient, and nearly ten years later, the cell phone app was created.
During the process, Crisman said he spent hundreds of hours taking photos of illegal IDs.
“I examined IDs with a fine tooth comb; everything about them, and took nearly 500 pictures.”
Crisman then created spreadsheets explaining the security features, put that information into files by state, and downloaded those files to his phone and into the app.
“I memorized all IDs while studying,” Crisman said. “I looked at so many for so long, and learned everything about every single one of them.”
Some ways fake IDs are spotted are by tiny dots surrounding the federal seal, the lines of the bar code on the back, font types, color, and existence of federal seals that are not visible with the naked eye.
But what if someone uses an ID that hasn’t been altered or is fraudulent?
“If someone uses someone else’s ID, both people in that matter will have consequences,” Cpl. Dan Montgomery of the FPD, said. “Both will be subjected to a fine, and will lose their licenses for 30 days or more.”
Possession of a fake ID and minor in possession are the two main alcohol-related arrests among students at the U of A, according to University of Arkansas Police Department reports.
Since January 1, 2013, 41 busts for possession of fake IDs occurred at the U of A, Crain said.
“Whenever a police officer has reason to contact and identify a person, the officer will be on the lookout for fake identification. There is no legitimate reason to have a fake ID,” Crain said.
Fayetteville police are alert to the pattern, too.
“Ultimately I want to reduce the number of underage drinking because unfortunately some very poor decisions get made when there is alcohol consumption. We see a lot of people who are away from home for the first time and whenever they’re caught for the underage drinking, it can not only impact them criminally but also financially. Some can really hurt their academic career, or someone could end up in a dangerous situation,” Sgt. Craig Sout, public information officer for the Fayetteville Police Dept. said.
Also, that person will be subjected to alcohol classes, counseling, fines, and fees. If the minor is a student, a report is sent to the Office of Student Conduct at the university, but it doesn’t stop there for U of A students, Crisman said, as multiple punishments may occur.
When a person is caught with a fake ID, a citation is given, and if the person isn’t compliant, more consequences may occur, Sgt. Craig Stout, public information officer for FPD said.
The citation given in that situation isn’t the same as a citation given while driving.
“It looks just like a speeding ticket, but it’s a criminal citation, as opposed to a traffic citation. So, it’s a must appear ticket. They have to go to court, or will get failure to appear,” Crisman said. “It’s not something they can just pay and move on from.”
A large number of citations for possession of a fake ID are written to students.
“Odds are in Fayetteville, about 95 percent of the people using them are university students,” Crisman said. “Kids today are very bold. They get these IDs, and it gets in their head that they’re [IDs] great. They’re [IDs] phenomenal, and they may use them in several places and get by with them. Then they get this confidence, “I can’t get caught”, and then they meet me. It’s like a big game of cat and mouse.”
Police say they have dedicated a certain amount of resources to try and curtail underage drinking, and the app Crisman created has made the process easier.
“A student could get hit several different ways— at least six, just because of one beer,” Crisman, said. “There is so much to lose because if that person is involved in Greek life, we’ll contact them. If that person is an athlete, we’ll let the athletic department know. We send it to all of them. It’s not worth one beer,” Crisman said.