Facebook used for under-agers buying booze

Under-age drinkers are turning to social media to skirt the law.

Under-age drinkers are turning to social media to skirt the law.

Criminals are buying alcohol for under-age drinkers and advertising the service on social media, police say.

With New Year's Eve on Thursday, police would be keeping a close eye on numerous Facebook groups that targeted young people, Wellington liquor licensing sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies said.

He knew of about a dozen sites, including one with a link to universities, on which people advertised their willingness to buy alcohol for under-age drinkers in exchange for money.

"They think we are oblivious and don't know – we are well aware."

One one site, unofficially linked to Victoria University, there were multiple alcohol sales visible on Wednesday, though they were not directly related to under-age drinkers.

Rapira-Davies said most of the Facebook sites were open to all, meaning people of any age could join.

He offered no apology to those worried that police were snooping by keeping a close eye on the pages.

"They can't expect privacy if they are advertising on a public site a willingness to do criminal acts."

Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, supplying alcohol for minors comes with a fine up to $2000, while licensees who sell to under-agers can be fined up to $10,000 and have their licences suspended for up to a week.

Otago Medical School professor Jennie Connor was not surprised by the services now being offered via Facebook.

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"The obvious thing is that people are using this to get around the law. My view it that the law is pathetic anyway."

New Zealand had few alcohol laws and a low drinking age, leading to young people drinking "in a way that damages their health", she said. "They will use whatever way they have of getting hold of it."

Outside the virtual world, Rapira-Davies said under-age drinkers often stood outside bottle stores asking adults to buy them alcohol.

"Some adults might do so on the basis they can keep the change ... or feel slightly sympathetic."

Others simply used fake identification or genuine identification, such as an older sibling's driver's licence, that did not belong to them.

Straight forgeries were getting increasingly sophisticated, but the introduction of holograms on new licences made them trickier to create.

"There are some that are very hard to spot, there are some that are very easy."

Hospitality New Zealand Wellington regional manager Dylan Firth said it was now common for door staff at bars to carry ultra-violet lights to check IDs.

"You have to keep up with the play because technology is much better, and people can make much more things at home."

First Contact director Darryl Stonnell, who runs door staff at numerous Wellington bars, said the arrival of easily obtained card printers meant ultra-violet lights were now the only way to detect fake IDs.

Teenagers were more likely to try to get into bars when they were 16 or 17 and approaching the legal age of 18.

"People who try younger than that are female. Younger boys just don't cut it – they don't have the look.

"Young girls can do themselves up to look older."

One girl admitted she was 15 when trying to get into a bar, but it was usually impossible to get a straight answer when he caught people with fake ID.

He had no doubt under-age drinkers were still getting past door staff. "Kids will still try, and they will succeed."

 - Stuff


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