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Underage drinking targeted

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Owner of Coffee, Cookies and Creamers Robin Wheeler has begun selling alcohol at his establishment in the Beach House Hall on Main Street in Cortland. The state is working with local businesses that serve alcohol to teach them how to check if identifications of customers are valid.

Robin Wheeler just got his liquor license at Coffee, Cookies and Creamers at the Beach House Mall on Main Street in Cortland and hasn’t had to deal with fake IDs yet. He can expect some pressure from the state to do it right.

Efforts to crack down on underage drinking following the college students across the state are underway. The state Liquor Authority, Department of Motor Vehicles and local police will conduct statewide sweeps of alcohol sellers, looking for fake IDs and illegal sales to minors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced.

Wheeler bought an ID-checking system, but hasn’t seen a rush of college students, yet. He tends to see the same people coming to his business. “Mainly middle-aged locals,” said Wheeler.

It would help him, and other business owners, he said, to weed out fake IDs if the state provided a book of different forms of IDs and how to check them. For now, however, Wheeler will continue to check the ID, the photo and date of birth on all IDs when he sells beer, he said.

The enforcement program began just as college students returned to campus. The enforcement sweeps build on the governor’s safety initiatives to deter underage drinking and prevent the purchase and use of false identification.

It’s getting harder to spot the fake ones, said city police Lt. David Guerrera. “People are using their own photos and own names.”

Most of the time students order their fake IDs either online or out of the country, Guerrera said.

In 2015, the city police issued tickets for 215 fake IDs, Guerrera said. In 2016, that number was 221. So far this year, 145 fake ID tickets have been issued.

Guerrera also had a few tips for distinguishing the fakes from the real IDs:

* Ask for a second form of identification, like a student ID or even credit card. “Something with the date of birth on it is better.”

* Make sure the seals are authentic. Use a magnifying glass or black light.

* Flashlights or blacklights shone through the card can show holograms. On a New York license a seal shows up behind the person’s photo. “That’s very tough to fake,” Guerrera said.

If someone has reason to believe an ID is fake, they can turn the person away, Guerrera said.

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