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Fake IDs continue to cause real problems in Bloomington



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Confiscated fake IDs are seen at the Secretary of State offices in Chicago, Illinois. Fake IDs began to appear on American college campuses in 1984, when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21.  Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Stacks of fake IDs sit in the back of bars and clubs around town. Bouncers sometimes try to give them to the Bloomington Police Department, but officers won't take them. They don't have the room.

Though fake IDs plague many college campuses and nightlife around Bloomington, police said there's something worse: individuals using legitimate IDs that aren't theirs.

Fake IDs appeared on American college campuses in 1984 when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. The market for them has changed since the 80s, but the product is still around.

Numerous studies found fake ID-use has grown over the years, though the exact numbers are difficult to pin down.

Michael Shiflet, a doorman at the Video Saloon on West 7th Street, has been checking for fake IDs for nearly 23 years.

“It’s something that’s pretty rampant in this city, and it’s not just the college students either,” he said. “It’s a little bit of everybody.”

BPD Lt. Ryan Pedigo said IDs have gotten more difficult to copy, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it.

Shiflet made his own tool to look at IDs more closely. He taped an LED flashlight to a small but powerful magnifying glass. He said it helps him look for microprinting on the IDs which often indicates if they’re real.

“I can look at the IDs and look for everything that’s supposed to be on there that nobody knows is on there,” he said.

Shiflet, like many other bouncers in town, collects the fake IDs he finds. He has boxes full of them.

“Some of the IDs are really, really good,” he said. “Some of them are really, really bad. I know the difference.”

The worst one he’s ever seen is still somewhere in one of those boxes. It was a fake with Michael Jackson’s mugshot on it, Shiflet said.

He said he thinks it was a joke, but isn’t sure.

Pedigo said BPD deals with people using legitimate IDs that don’t belong to them more than fake IDs. 

This is a crime for both parties if the person who the ID actually belongs to knows it’s being used illegally.

Using someone else’s state-issued ID can amount to a felony.

“That’s something I think a lot of kids don’t understand,” Pedigo said. “Don’t risk getting a felony for drinking beer.”

A 2011 study found 7.7 percent of freshman college students reported owning a fake ID. A similar study on an individual campus found 17.1 percent of students had one.

A study of students at the University of Missouri in 2010 found 21 percent of its underage student population owned a fake ID. It also reported 29.1 percent of the owners reported being caught using their fake.

“Owning a fake ID may give underage college drinkers a false sense of security, pushing them to drink more, and thereby leading to an increase in alcohol-related problems,” according to the 2011 study.

Multiple studies found students involved in greek life are more likely to have fakes.

Bloomington was named the “drunkest city” in Indiana by 24/7 Wall Street, an investment-focused publication, in 2017. The publication looked at data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps to determine this. 

Businesses in town have incentive to avoid providing alcohol to minors — possible felony charges — but they also have a conflicting interest in mind: profit.

Though not all bouncers have handmade tools to help them check IDs, police said stacks of fake IDs are taken from bar-goers every week.

“The last place you want to come with a fake ID is the Video Saloon,” Shiflet said, “because I’ll get it.”

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