Bogus proof of age a bad idea for teens [Editorial]

Like squirrels trying to get into a bird feeder, a share of people 20 and younger can be relied upon to take every opportunity available to countermand the law that precludes anyone younger than 21 from partaking of alcoholic beverages.

Thus it comes as no surprise that yet again the matter of people using bogus identification cards as proof of age at licensed beverage retailers was before the Harford County Liquor Control Board last week.

As liquor inspector Charles Robbins said last week: "It's a big problem."

Fortunately, the enforcement situation in Harford County is such that at least a substantial portion of the licensed establishments in Harford County are taking the problem seriously. There's good reason for them to be vigilant. They are entrusted with a high degree of responsibility that comes with being allowed to dispense the only legal recreational drug and have an obligation to keep it out of the hands of people who the law says are too young to consume it. Moreover, serving to a teen with a counterfeit ID is, under the law, essentially the same as serving to a teen with no proof of age, which is to say a punishable offense.

Robbins last week commended businesses that have taken the step of confiscating counterfeit ID cards and turning them over to the liquor board for investigation and possible prosecution.

The businesses he highlighted are: Looney's, Magerks, Dark Horse and the Tower, in downtown Bel Air; Greenbrier Wine and Spirits and 7-Eleven at Route 22 and Moores Mill Road, both just east of Bel Air; Smitty's Spirits at Routes 1 and 152 in Joppa; and Good Time Liquors on Route 40 near Joppa Road.

We concur with Robbins assessment of the people who take notice of the phony ID cards and confiscate them: "They do a good job."

They do such a good job that, according to Robbins' report to the board, the staff at Looney's pub in Bel Air caught a woman with a fake ID and she told the doorman that when she got it, she was advised it shouldn't be used in Harford County because it would be taken away.

"And it was," Robbins told the board.

If Robbins' warnings of being caught aren't enough to discourage teens in pursuit of alcohol aren't sufficient to deter illegal purchase attempts, possibly his cautionary tale about the nature of the fake ID business will carry a little more weight.

It turns out these operations take the photos, names, signatures, addresses, height and weight details and ship it overseas. Robbins told the liquor board when he makes arrests on charges of using a fake ID (an offense that carries a $500 fine), he advises the suspects to check their credit reports. Often they find bank and credit cards have been opened in their names, a personal finance headache that can linger for years longer than any hangover.

Using bogus proof of age to buy alcohol is a bad idea for an awful lot of reasons. As new generations of people enter their teen years, however, it is likely to continue.

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