Because some minors use fake forms of identification, like driver’s licenses, Chapel Hill police are increasing efforts to curb underage drinking.
Police spokesman Lt. Josh Mecimore said the department frequently conducts compliance checks with local bars and restaurants. Police send undercover, underage buyers into alcohol-selling establishments to try to purchase alcohol while police officers wait nearby.
The most recent check was conducted on March 21. Mineer said an undercover buyer was sent into 28 establishments within four hours and employees from 10 of them were cited for selling or giving alcohol to an undercover person.
The citations included employees of the popular bars Players and He’s Not Here.
Both establishments declined to comment.
“Each time we do that, there are employees that get cited for selling to underage people,” Mecimore said.
Mike Mineer, an alcohol law enforcement investigator with the Chapel Hill police, said he conducted four compliance checks last year, but plans on increasing that number to a minimum of eight to 12 during the next year, beginning July 1.
“We have over 300 permitted establishments in Chapel Hill that are allowed to sell alcohol,” Miner said. “I typically try to hit 35 to 40 businesses during every check.
“I’m not trying to see how many people I can write tickets to — I am trying to get them to stop doing what they are doing.”
Mecimore said the employee who sells an alcoholic beverage to an underage buyer is cited, but the business can get into trouble as well. He added that the consequences depend on the number of times employees have been cited and the severity of the offense.
“Ultimately, the state gives them a license that says they can serve alcohol,” Mecimore said. “But the ABC commission can revoke that permit which would mean they couldn’t serve alcohol anymore.”
Mineer said most alcohol-selling establishments in Chapel Hill do a good job of following the law. But he said there should be a more structured, graduated penalty system.
“We are trying to figure out how to be swifter and have more structural consequences so that everyone knows what will happen,” he said.
Mineer said considering the department’s increased efforts, students should be more wary of using fake IDs.
“It isn’t safe to drink underage in Chapel Hill because I am out there,” he said. “You are going to end up paying money out of your pocket or having something on your criminal record.”
Mecimore said the fraudulent use of an ID is typically a misdemeanor. But using an ID with someone else’s picture on it can lead to a felony charge of identity theft. He said that happens most often when people use fake IDs to avoid prosecution.
Chapel Hill police Sgt. Bryan Walker added that officers use their iPhones or iPads to easily run an ID through the system.
“The database is going to deliver me the photograph that was taken of you when your license was issued to you,” he said. “So you better look a whole lot like your sister.”
Mineer said it isn’t hard to decipher if an ID is fake.
“The first thing I do is look for the hologram because that is usually the most obvious thing when you get them,” he said.
Many students buy their fake IDs online, Walker said. He said many of the companies who sell them try to remain as legal as they can.
“They will sell something with a sticker that says ‘for novelty use only’ but then that sticker is really easy to take off,” he said.