With a simple scan of a driver’s license, the person’s birthdate comes up on the screen.
“They provide fast and easy age verification contributing to responsible beverage service,” said Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, community prevention specialist with the Prevention Management Organization.
The new scanners are part of an effort to reduce underage drinking in Park County.
“Up until now, the bar owner or service provider hasn’t had a means to verify whether or not an ID is legitimate,” said Police Chief Roy Eckerdt. “Sometimes when you’re dealing with out-of-state IDs, it becomes even more complicated.”
The new scanners are simple to use, said Jennifer Lieser Sparks, owner of the Backstreet Pub.
“I told my bartenders, you still look at the ID and make sure it’s them,” Lieser Sparks said. “And scan it every time.”
Reducing underage drinking requires a coordinated effort with police, local liquor establishments and other stakeholders, Eckerdt said.
There’s always the issue of drinking-age buyers providing alcohol to underage drinkers, “but the majority of our cases could be addressed at the point of service,” he said.
During a busy night, a bartender can miss a fake ID. Now, with a simple scan, they’ll be able to identify minors and fake IDs.
“I think this is a great step in a direction of the bar owners and the PD (police department) presenting a unified front against underage drinking,” Eckerdt said. “When it comes to this, we’re on the same team.”
The idea for ID scanners first came about during a meeting for local liquor license holders in March. The Powell Economic Partnership and Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Prevention Management Organization and the Park County Coalition Against Substance Abuse and Alcohol to host the discussion.
During that meeting, a bar owner asked about ID scanners, and the idea gained momentum. However, the need for financial support was apparent, Rodriguez-Williams said.
The Prevention Management Organization, funded by the Wyoming Department of Health, purchased the scanners for the bars.
“Research shows that consistent use of ID scanners may reduce illegal sales of alcohol to underage youth by encouraging employees to refuse to sell to any customer who does not have a valid ID showing they are of age and increasing employees detection of fake IDs,” said Rodriguez-Williams.
In the Powell area, 82 minors were cited for possessing alcohol in 2014. That year, five residents were cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor; one employee at a liquor establishment was cited for selling to a minor.
Around 34 percent of Park County students in grades 10 to 12 reported they had at least one drink of alcohol in the past month, according to a local prevention needs assessment.
A few years ago, college kids created fake IDs that looked like the real thing, Lieser Sparks said.
“As the college is getting ready to start back up, fraudulent IDs are something we often see,” Eckerdt said.
Underage drinking can lead to other issues, such as alcohol poisoning, and “it also tends to be a factor in sexual assaults,” Eckerdt said.
The Powell Police Department “takes a zero tolerance on underage drinking,” Eckerdt said. “So therefore, our numbers tend to be higher as far as enforcement compared to other communities.”
The new ID scanners store up to 4,000 records, allowing bar owners to track which IDs were used to purchase alcohol.
“I think this is going to be nice,” Sandy Kelly, manager of the Red Stag, said last week.