Scanners eye bar customers

Students ashamed of their driver's license picture might want to avoid certain taverns around campus.

Some bars on and around campus use machines that photograph patrons' IDs before they can enter the establishment.

Julia Gilling, general manager of Jim Hegarty's Pub, 1120 W. Wells St., said the bar has been using a machine that takes an image of an ID for five years. The machine is hooked up to a closed circuit television, and a videotape records the photographs of each ID.

Hegarty's has 360 videotapes and keeps the videotape from a given night for one year, Gilling said. The evidence can help a potential police investigation in any number of ways.

"If an establishment has (one of the machines), they usually don't have a problem with underage drinking," said Sgt. Ken Henning, a Milwaukee Police Department public information officer.

Bill Ryan, general manager of Landmark Lanes, 2220 N. Farwell Ave., said about a year ago a girl went missing and authorities heard she had been around the establishment. Ryan said the bar has an ID photographing machine with videotapes and turned one over to the police. Landmark, however, only keeps videotapes for one week, he said.

Both Gilling and Ryan said the machines are mainly used to help crack down on underage drinking.

The photographs protect the bar if an underage person is caught inside and tells the police a bouncer never asked them for an ID, Ryan said. The machine proves that a person had an ID and the bar thought it was real, Gilling said.

However, the machines used at Hegarty's and Landmark cannot actually tell if the IDs are real or not.

To help prove the validity on an ID, Hegarty's has a black light it shines on an ID. Gilling said most states put images or words on the ID only visible under a black light. Illinois, for example, has the state's name printed several times on its driver's license.

The ultimate decision of whether or not to let a patron enter rests on the shoulders of the person working the door, she said.

Debbie Thatcher echoed similar sentiment in explaining why the bar she owns, Conway's, 2127 W. Wells St., does not have any type of ID machine.

"One thing the machine doesn't do is prove that it is the person standing in front of you," Thatcher said. The machine "only does one job. The other job is up to a person."

At Conway's, a video camera above the bouncer records IDs being checked, and upon entering the bar's breezeway, patrons are greeted by a wall littered with confiscated IDs. Personal information on the IDs is obscured.

The Union Sports Annex does not have an ID scanner.

"We've been told the machines aren't foolproof," said Marilyn Bugenhagen, director of the Alumni Memorial Union and the person who determines how the Union Sports Annex checks IDs. "So you can lean it on machine error or human error, I guess."

Annex employees participate in training offered collaboratively through MPD and the Department of Public Safety on how to spot a fake ID, she said. People working the door at the Annex can also reference a book featuring what each state's ID should look like.

Henning said the machines are helpful, but Marquette bars "haven't had a problem (with underage drinking), God, since I've been in college."

Murphy's Irish Pub, 1615 W. Wells St., and Caffrey's Pub, 717 N. 16th St., have machines bouncers put patrons' IDs into, but Mike Vitucci, owner of both establishments, could not be reached for comment on what the machines do or why the bars have them.

Some machines, not the ones at Hegarty's or Landmark, can scan the barcodes or magnetic strips on the back of an ID to see if the ID is in good standing with whichever state issued it.

These more sophisticated models can extract and arrange information such as ZIP codes and ages as a sort of demographic depiction of who came into the bar, according to Web sites of machine manufacturers.

A demographic could raise privacy concerns if the information were distributed, but Michael McChrystal, professor of law, said the type of information taken by the machines that only take pictures is "less of a concern than a typical credit card transaction."

McChrystal said businesses often sell information gleaned from credit cards to "various third parties." As long as bars keep watch over videotaped ID pictures, privacy should not be a concern.

Ryan and Gilling said no one beside bar owners, managers and the police have access to the videotapes. Neither bar reviews videotapes unless asked for information by MPD, they said.