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City of Charleston partners with tech company to curb underage drinking

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As many as 31 bars and restaurants in the King Street area of Charleston are invited to take part in a pilot program using technology to battle the challenge of underage drinking.

Charleston city officials and Intellicheck Inc. today launched the six-month program using Intellicheck’s identity verification mobile technology application, which the company says is more than 99% accurate in authenticating IDs in less than a second using existing mobile devices or point-of-sale scanners.

“We've looked into several options to help our King Street bars and restaurants meet the fake ID challenge, and Intellicheck was clearly the winner,” Councilmember Mike Seekings said in a news release. “This is a proven-effective technology, and I'm proud that Charleston is leading the way with this pilot program to make it available to our local businesses.”

The program is being underwritten by the city of Charleston and Explore Charleston, with a $20,000 contribution from each, with Intellicheck contributing the technology at a “sharply reduced cost,” the news release said, but did not disclose the terms.

“As mayor, I'd like to thank Intellicheck, Explore Charleston and all the participating local businesses,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said in the release. “This is a remarkably promising initiative, and a powerful example of what we can achieve when we work in partnership with our residents and small business owners to help keep our city safe.”

Participating area businesses will use the same tool currently being used by the Charleston Police Department and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, in addition to other law enforcement agencies across the country.

“Putting a stop to underage drinking is a critical component of our larger King Street safety plan,” CPD Chief Luther Reynolds said in the release. “Like SLED and many other law enforcement agencies, CPD already uses the Intellicheck system, and I look forward to working with our area businesses to put these scanners in the hands of the bar and restaurant employees who need them most.”

Intellicheck CEO Bryan Lewis said the partnership provides a dynamic solution to the problems caused by the use of high-tech fake IDs. Lewis said fake IDs have become so sophisticated that even the most seasoned law enforcement officers often cannot distinguish them from a legitimate ID with a visual inspection.

“These high-tech fake IDs are widely available at little cost on the web and it’s a daunting problem for law enforcement agencies because a large number of these fake IDs are coming from China,” he said in the release. “It’s like whack-a-mole. As soon as they shut down a major provider, they pop back up with a slightly different name and web address. This partnership is a unifying force that provides an effective solution to the challenges driven by fake IDs.”

The goal of the program is to eliminate underage drinking in the King Street area. Twenty-four businesses had committed to participating in the program by this morning, including Roy Neal, owner of El Jefe.

“Preventing underage drinking is a shared responsibility,” Neal said in the release. “And thanks to this program, our local small business owners will soon be able to play a major role in keeping our kids, and our streets, safe.”

The partnership officially kicks off on December 5.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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