Bar Owners Reject ID Scanners

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COLUMBIA - While some downtown bar owners agree with Columbia Police plans to step up security efforts in the area, those owners reject the use of scanners to check patrons' IDs before entering their establishments.

The well-documented shooting on June 15 was the first of several violent incidents in Columbia. Within ten days there were four shootings, one of which was fatal. On June 26, the police chief, mayor, and members of the city council held a news conference to discuss what they think needs to be done to address the problem. The police chief said there needs to be a more active approach to combating the recent increase in crime.

"We in the downtown unit try to be very proactive not reactive, and because of that we see crimes that perpetuate into larger issues and we try to stop those as we see them," Sgt. Candy Cornman said.

One Columbia bar took matters into its own hands just more than a year ago, but the other bars downtown have not followed in its footsteps with the same course of action.

Déjà Vu said it implemented an ID scanner system to avoid violence both inside and outside of the establishment.

"Déjà Vu has started the process and I think it is just a matter of time before the other establishments come on line," Cornman said. "They are a good tool to use and obviously they have helped Déjà Vu. I believe in recognizing false identifications as well as underage patrons."

When we asked Déjà Vu management to comment on its use of ID scanners, it refused to do any interviews. We did talk to other bar owners in the downtown area, and while they were not completely against the idea, most said the scanners would be more of a hassle than a helpful tool.

"From what I know some ID scanners can't tell the difference between certain kinds of fakes," Roxy's Nightclub owner Jesse Garcia said. "There's a couple companies out there that are making fake IDs that can even fool those scanners. Unless you have access to the same files that a police officer would, whatever system it is that they use, it can be false or have a false positive that its OK."

One patron said he just experienced first hand the hassle of this new technology. Wesley Upchurch said there are obviously problems and thinks they cause more problems than they are worth.

"I was upset," Upchurch said. "I had family in from out of town and it was rather embarrassing especially considering I've never been banned from any club. I'm not a problem person, but they were like 'There's a whole lot of reasons you could have been banned, you could have gotten in a fight, you could have had a possession charge, you could have been with a group that was too rowdy,' and all these things are things that just aren't me. But because someone with the same name some where else was flagged and it made a mistake and then the system is going to make a mistake later."

Another bar owner agrees that the technology just isn't there and it would not be a good investment for his bar.

"If you are using it just determine if it's indeed a real ID, the truth is a good-trained door guy can do that without the machine. So I don't see where the technology necessarily can replace a well-trained human," On the Rocks owner Matt McGee said.

Cornman said Déjà Vu did purchase the machines on its own, and the decision to buy one is something each individual bar would have to decide. McGee said he did look into the scanners several years ago, but they were expensive and the technology has not progressed so he has not considered them since.

The bar owners we did speak to agreed there is one thing that needs to be done to make downtown, and Columbia in general, a safer environment.

"There probably needs to be more law enforcement officers, more police on the streets all over town," Garcia said.

McGee agrees more police presence is a key factor in reducing crime.

"There's no question that active police work helps to deter crime, and so if that's what it takes to resolve some of these incidents downtown and to prevent them from happening in the future, I think it is a step we need to take no question," McGee said.

For more information on what action is being done to prevent crime visit the Columbia Police Department website.