LAKE FOREST/LAKE BLUFF — A large majority of Lake Forest High School students have fake identification cards enabling them to purchase or possess alcoholic beverages, according to representatives of the Lake Forest Police Department, who discussed fake ids and the legal ramifications of underage drinking during their first town hall meeting on May 17 at the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest.
“I would guess 70 to 75 percent of the students have them,” Lake Forest Detective Ben Grum, the high school’s resource officer, said. “It’s only a guess.”
Grum said he bases his opinion on the fact four students have lost wallets at the high school this year that were later found containing fake identification cards showing them to be 21 or over.
“If four people have lost their wallets and all of them have fake IDs, you know it has to be a lot more,” Grum said after the meeting. “You would think a kid with a fake ID in his wallet would be more careful.”
Lake Forest is not alone with this issue. Grum said Highland Park police recently intercepted a shipment of 52 fake identification cards destined for students at Highland Park High School.
“You can get anything on the internet,” Lake Forest Police Commander Craig Lepkowski said. “Most of it comes from overseas and (prosecuting the makers) is beyond our reach.”
While nearly any form of underage drinking or possession of alcohol is illegal, according to Lepkowski, he said most offenses result in a station adjustment or administrative hearing at Lake Forest City Hall where contrition from a first-time offender gets the opportunity to atone for a poor choice without life altering consequnes.
Owning a fake ID is much more serious, according to Grum. He said the offense is a felony and can result in a year in prison. The reason for the severe treatment is an outgrowth of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.
One person wanted to know where most of the youngsters buy alcohol. Most of the purchases are made in Highwood, unincorporated Lake Bluff and North Chicago, according to Grum. He said very little is sold in Lake Forest.
The administrative hearings or station adjustments Lepkowski described are not an inconsequential free pass. He and Grum said conditions are set out that can often require self reporting the behavior to the high school, community service and paying a fine. Failing to meet the requirements results in issuance of a citation and a trip to branch court to face a judge.
“Once they do that it makes an impression on them,” Julie Abdallah, one of the attendees at the meeting, said referring to administrative hearings. “They don’t want to go back.”
Khris Condon, the former coordinator of Speak Up! Prevention Coalition, a community group focused on preventing underage drinking and drug use, said much of the alcohol getting into the hands of youth comes from private homes. No one disputed her statement.
Police usually get involved with underage drinking when they receive a report of an out of control party, notice impairment during a routine traffic stop, or see suspicious behavior in a public place like a park, according to Grum.
A discussion of prevention was part of the meeting too. Andy Duran, the executive director of LEAD, a community not-for-profit organization dedicated to prevention of alcohol, drug use, and other risky behavior by youth, according to its website, said parents can do a lot to prevent underage drinking.
Duran divides adults into three groups:
- one is complicit with underage drinking
- a second hates the first
- the third is open to influence from the other two. He said the indecisive ones are the target group for prevention.
Setting an example for children from a young age is important too, according to Duran. He said something as simple from refraining from saying “I need a drink” before having one can make a strong impact.
Lepkowski said underage drinking has dropped since adults became responsible for the behavior of their children under social hosting laws.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. on May 18 to clarify that the fake identification information is attributed to anecdotal information from the Lake Forest Police Department.