University of Wisconsin-Madison donates ID scanners to businesses

By Erica Perez, Journal Sentinel, Inc

July 14, 2008

Anyone under the age of 21 looking to buy alcohol in downtown Madison could soon find it a little tougher to pass off a fake ID.

To combat underage drinking, the University of Wisconsin-Madison used donated funds to buy hand-held scanners — at $1,000 each — and give them at no cost to seven liquor stores and one grocery store. The businesses, in turn, agreed to use the gadgets to swipe customers’ IDs to instantly determine whether they are of age or using a fake.

The money for the scanners is from the UW Police Department and the chancellor’s office.

Typically, bars or clubs buy the devices or universities buy them to use in their own on-campus pubs, but it’s rare for a school to take the extra step of donating scanners to area businesses, said Charles Cagliostro, president of TokenWorks Inc., the Delaware-based company that sold the scanners to UW.

Marquette University uses the devices in the Union Sports Annex, a university-owned sports restaurant and bar. The university also has met with the proprietors of nearby Murphy’s Irish Pub and Caffrey’s Pub to encourage the bars to use them but hasn’t offered the devices for free, university spokeswoman Brigid O’Brien Miller said.

The Madison program is one piece of a larger alcohol policy designed to cut underage and irresponsible drinking at the university and in the city. Since last summer, UW has used about 15 scanners in the Memorial Union to swipe IDs at various checkouts.

The hope is that the businesses will see an increase in the number of confiscated IDs. It could help police home in on fake-ID patterns or trends, said Dawn Crim, acting special assistant to the chancellor.

Given to 8 businesses

The free scanners were offered to only eight businesses, but Crim has been encouraging all new bars, bars with newly transferred licenses and bars facing disciplinary action relating to underage drinking to purchase scanners.

UW student Hannah Karns, vice chair of Associated Students of Madison, said she doesn’t think the ID scanners would be effective at getting to the root of the problem. She would rather see more alcohol education.

“I think that even with the scanners, students will find other fellow students who are 21 or who have an ID,? she said. “Maybe this will be better at deterring students from buying alcohol themselves, but I don’t see it quelling their desire to get drunk.

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