WNY Had Most Fake ID Seizures In 2018
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced recently that New York’s efforts to deter underage drinking resulted in a record number of fake identification seizures in 2018.
The year-round Operation Prevent initiative focuses on concert venues, bars, restaurants and alcohol retailers throughout New York state. The state seized 892 fake documents as part of the initiative, up from 814 in 2017.
Western New York topped the list in both arrests and number of fake ID seizures. Last year across New York state, 922 people were ticketed for using false identification or using another person’s identification, up from 843 in 2017. Additionally, 892 fake documents were seized, up from 814 the year before.
Fake identification arrests and the number of IDs seized in 2018 by region include: Western New York: 394 arrests, 335 fake ID seizures, Capital Region: 115 arrests, 138 fake ID seizures, Central New York: 55 arrests, 55 fake ID seizures, Finger Lakes: 98 arrests, 92 fake ID seizures, Long Island: 90 arrests, 108 fake ID seizures: Mid-Hudson Valley: 148 arrests, 144 fake ID seizures; North Country: 4 arrests, 2 fake ID seizures, and Southern Tier: 18 arrests, 18 fake ID seizures.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson commented on the abundance of arrests and seizures in Western New York, which make up more than a third of the state total. “We see this primarily in college towns and with college kids, their M.O. is binge-drinking, so there’s public safety to think about,” Swanson said. “We want local bar owners upholding responsibility. A lot of people think it’s just young kids having fun, but the fact is there are safety concerns, especially with binge-drinking.”
SUNY Fredonia University Police Chief Anne Burns also commented on the local totals on campus. “A lot of students have them, it’s a relatively common thing,” Burns stated. “Last year, we wrote a total of four tickets for having a fake ID. On average, there’s (roughly) 25-35 seizures. It’s only if the officer felt that a ticket needed to be issued, most of the time we confiscate them, send them back to DMV or destroy it.”
Burns also noted that on the SUNY campus, opportunities to catch someone in the act of using a fake ID aren’t that simple. “On campus, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to discover fakes,” Burns said. “There would be no reason for us to search unless we inventory a wallet. Sometimes I think every college student has one.”
Fredonia Police Chief Bradley Meyers gave a brief statement on how matters related to fake IDs are handled off-campus. “What happens is, investigators from the DMV will contact us about two or three times a year and do fake ID checks at local bars,” Meyers said. “It’s college towns, and whenever the investigators come down, we always assist them, so it really is dependent on the aggressiveness of the investigators, where they find trouble spots and a lot of IDs being used.”
District Attorney Swanson also commented on the local actions being taken. “State troopers primarily investigate fake ID-related matters,” Swanson stated. “They’re known to conduct a sting here and there. They got an operation in Fredonia last year, so we did have some, I know Buffalo gets a lot of them.”
A separate announcement put out Nov. 7 of 2018 by Governor Cuomo lists five bars in Western New York that were part of an underage drinking crackdown, resulting in 48 arrests. Between The Steer and The Main Place Bar in Buffalo, there were 24 arrests. Then, between Old Main Inn, Sunny’s and Muldoons in Fredonia, there were 24 as well. However, that’s still only a mere eighth of the nearly 400 arrests in Western New York.
According to the Daily News in Batavia, Darien Lake concerts are primarily responsible for the numbers. “Thanks to Darien Lake concerts, Western New York had the highest number of fake identification seizures last year, which proved a record for such seizures in New York state,” a Feb. 5 article states. “Concerts are a main target for state investigators and Darien Lake’s summer concert series helped increase WNY’s total.”
Investigators from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles are taking several steps to strengthen their enforcement efforts that have led to higher numbers of fake ID seizures. DMV investigators are now using a mobile computer at large venues to speed the processing of tickets and working closely with state and local law enforcement to identify areas where underage drinking is occurring and enforcement is needed. In one enforcement initiative in December, DMV and SLA investigators ticketed 115 people in a bar in Hyde Park, resulting in the suspension of the facility’s liquor license.
“It goes without saying that New York State has absolutely zero tolerance for underage drinking, and last year’s record number of fake ID seizures demonstrates once again that we are deadly serious about tackling this issue,” Governor Cuomo said. “Underage drinking often leads to avoidable tragedies, and we will continue these successful enforcement measures to crack down on illegal behavior and ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”
New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez said, “Underage drinking comes with high risks and consequences, including changes in brain development that may have lifelong effects. We must continue engaging in these efforts to curb underage drinking and educate the public about its dangers and negative societal and personal impacts.”
In addition, the State Liquor Authority issued 1,087 penalties to licensed retailers for underage sales in 2018. The SLA also promotes compliance through the Alcohol Training Awareness Program, a training focused on reducing sales to minors and intoxicated patrons.
The number of ATAP trainings completed by licensees and their staff increased by more than 20 percent from 18,881 in 2017 to 23,139 in 2018. This includes more than 400 business owners and servers who received free ATAP training hosted by the SLA in collaboration with the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association as part of Governor Cuomo’s continued efforts to combat underage drinking.
Mark Schroeder, Acting DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee said, “We work very hard to send the message to young people to not drink until they are of the appropriate legal age. We want to prevent tragedies. The public should be aware that our investigators are out checking for fake identifications, and people risk arrest if they try to use one.”
Vincent Bradley, State Liquor Authority Chairman said, “Cracking down on underage drinking remains a priority for the State Liquor Authority. Under Governor Cuomo, the SLA has partnered with the DMV and local law enforcement across the state to prevent alcohol abuse among our youth by holding accountable both businesses who knowingly sell to minors and those who attempt to use fake IDs.”