OSWEGO – The Oswego City Police Department is enforcing a more educational approach to preventing underage drinking and the usage of fake IDs before issuing violations, said Lt. Charles Searor.
Searor said that the department will reach out to students in a number of ways through the college and even reaching out to students off-campus.
One outreach program he talked about was when the college holds events they will sometimes come out and speak to students about the consequences of underage drinking and using a fake ID.
This is something he said has changed in the last couple of years.
“We used to just do enforcement and not a lot of education and outreach with both students and bars,” Searor said. “We’ve kind of taken a different avenue and tried to educate [and] outreach first in hopes that we can get through to a lot of the bars and a lot of the underage individuals [so] that hopefully they’d be less likely to go out and commit these types of crimes and violations.”
This new approach comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a crackdown on underage drinking and fake IDs on college campuses and in college towns, as part of Operation Prevent.
Operation Prevent is conducted year-round by the Department of Motor Vehicles, in conjunction with local authorities, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the New York State Liquor Authority.
According to the New York State Governor’s website the program is “aimed at deterring underage drinking by preventing the use of fake IDs to obtain alcohol,” something that is not uncommon in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that “people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States” and “more than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.” They also found that compared to adult drinkers, underage drinkers consume more alcoholic beverages per occasion.
On the campus of Oswego State the Annual Security and Fire Report showed that between 2013 and 2015 there were a total of 430 liquor law disciplines on the campus, an average of 143 liquor law disciplines per year.
The report also showed that in those three years the number of disciplines has gone down for each year. One reason for this could be that the college has, along with the city taken a more educational approach to prevent further underage drinking.
In the college’s student handbook, provided to every student living in a residence hall, it states that underage drinking is not tolerated and if students are found doing so they will have disciplinary actions held against them.
The disciplinary actions include the disclosure of the incident to the students’ parents or guardian via a letter and also other measures like taking a 30-minute class called In-Shape Prevention, which talks about drinking, smoking, drug use and the like.
Another thing is working hand-in-hand with the city’s police department to talk more openly with students about the consequences of underage drinking and the usage of false identification.
Searor said that the bars have been good with cooperating on details to check for fake IDs.
Lt. Zach Misztal, a supervisor of the details, also said when they do ID checks it is not something they keep a secret.
“Everybody was right there,” said Misztal. “We were actually at some of the establishments in marked patrol cars, in marked police uniforms and people came up and they still attempted to use false identification with those three things in place.”
Searor added that for those caught with a fake ID will at first be given a warning and the ID is taken away.
But for repeat offenders, he said that it could then be marked, the person could be arrested and the crime could range anywhere from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on what the situation was or how they were trying to use the ID.
Searor said that since January, in Oswego there have been 43 arrests made in regards to students using false identification.
Misztal said that when they do these crackdowns it is both for the students as well as the city’s residents.
“When we do details like this it shows the general public, it shows the people who’d be willing to use false identification or to try to consume at these establishments underage that we are watching and hopefully they think twice in using fraudulent IDs and participating in negative behaviors,” Lt. Misztal said.
Working at the bars can get hard sometimes, Samantha Marti, an Oswego State student and bartender at The Raven said.
On busier nights the bouncers are often the ones checking IDs to ensure that whoever they are serving drinks to is of age.
“It gets complicated because I’ve never had training on identifying fake IDs, so I try to do the best I can,” said Marti. “We do get a lot of out of state and that’s where you have the potential for the fake IDs, so I just kind of do the best with what I know to get the job done.”
Marti continued to say that part of the problem with underage drinking and the usage of false identification could be because of the stigma surrounding drinking at a younger age in the U.S. compared to countries, where the age is lower and those people have had more experience when it comes to drinking.
Marti said lowering the drinking age could be better in the long-run.
“Right off the bat you wouldn’t see a whole lot of improvement in the situation, but as people get more used to it and as families get adjusted I think it would improve over the years,” Marti said. “It’s just something that needs time.”
Submitted by: Shenandoah Briere, SUNY Oswego Journalism Major
Opinion Editor, The Oswegonian