Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories




Island – October 15, 2002



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With support from the OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program, enforcement agencies, community organizations, youth, and other concerned citizens are working collaboratively to identify key issues and to implement effective enforcement strategies to reduce underage drinking and youth access to alcohol.


Finding the Fakers in Rhode Island

Police in South Kingstown, Rhode Island have successfully tracked down the source of hundreds of fake drivers? licenses. In the course of their operation, the police put a serious dent in underage drinkers? access to alcohol. 

South Kingstown is a small town near the University of Rhode Island?sometimes called ?U-R High? for its history of drinking and drug culture. This has changed in recent years as the University?s President, Robert Carothers, has pushed to curtail alcohol and other drug use on campus. His efforts have caused a significant drop in alcohol-related problems. Still, the problem persists to some extent, and many students go off-campus to drink. 

The South Kingstown Police Department made an effort to reduce student access to alcohol, but they found that their compliance check operations did not have community support and were not particularly effective. Part of the problem was that retailers felt unfairly targeted?they complained that kids used nearly-perfect fake identification, making it difficult to accurately separate minors from adults. 

To deal with the ID problem, police in South Kingstown adopted the successful Identification Seizure program developed by police in nearby Newport (see the Success Story, ?In Newport, RI, Police and Retailers Take the Fakes?, Feb. 28, 2002). The South Kingstown police worked with the thirty-four local liquor license

holders to train restaurant, bar, and store staff to spot false identification and call for police assistance. Usually, the customer flees rather than risk police involvement. In that manner, the program netted more than 200 fake driver?s licenses?some of astonishingly high quality. The police were also able to make more than 90 arrests. 

As part of their investigation, the police made an effort to contact individuals who had attempted to pass off false identification. Many of the false licenses?copies of the New Jersey license?had addresses that were correct if ?RI? was substituted for ?NJ?. By tracking down the residents of these addresses, the investigators were able to identify a number of people who had possessed false identification. When police asked where they had obtained the fakes, ?a lot of people talked,? says Detective Anthony Balbi. After tracking down several dozen people, the police realized that the evidence led to one or two sources. 

The investigation led to the arrest of three URI students on felony charges for the manufacture and sale of false licenses. Two of the students had created hundreds of fake licenses together, using digital cameras, scanners, and other high-tech equipment. A third had made some fifteen cards. Now the police are examining the students? hard drives, in search of names of past customers. The officers hope that they can recover many of the licenses put into circulation by the students. Says Detective Balbi, ?We?re getting the message out to U.R.I.?

For more information,  contact Detective Anthony Balbi of the South Kingstown P.D. at 401-783-3321. 



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